Chris Cheeseman, Spiritual Care Co-ordinator at Pendleside Hospice, is stepping down from the position after almost nine years – but he’s staying on as a volunteer at the charity which he says has “got into his blood”.
Before starting in his role at Pendleside, Chris used to run training courses for volunteers as vice chairman of the Council for Voluntary Service (CVS). That was before he received a call from Muriel Jobling, founding chairman of the hospice, asking if he could help her.
Chris said: “Muriel was a legend, there’s no other word to describe her. She gave me a call back in 1988 about training courses for volunteers at the hospice. She said ‘you will do some for me, won’t you?’ and I was never going to say no!
“It’s a shame she didn’t live long enough to experience the 30th anniversary of the hospice last year. I know she would have been incredibly proud of the work that’s been done, and continues to be done, here at Pendleside.”
Chris’ time as Spiritual Care Co-ordinator has been nothing short of varied. The role is people-centred – like each and every role at the hospice – and expanded from a traditional chaplaincy to developing a team of 12 volunteers from various faiths and none.
Chris said: “Our aim is to develop the dimension of spirituality for people we meet at the hospice – it’s not just about a faith or religion. We meet patients experiencing spiritual distress and a lot of people who are incredibly poorly but who are not fearful of death itself – they are fearful of dying.
“We see our roles as journeying alongside people, and there’s no timeframe on this. Sometimes just sitting with someone and listening to them, when they’re potentially very frustrated with their condition, can prove to be a very precious experience. We want everyone to know we’re walking that walk with them.”
When Chris finishes his final task as Spiritual Care Co-ordinator – and hands over the reins to his successor Catherine Oldfield – it won’t be the end of his relationship with the hospice, after electing to stay on board as a volunteer in any capacity he’s needed for.
He said: “The hospice gets into your blood – it’s a very powerful organisation and I can’t imagine not supporting, in my opinion, one of the best charities in the area. So much good is done here but the hospice needs support, because if it wasn’t for volunteers we wouldn’t exist.