A final act of support for a dying former service user

01 Feb 2018
by Adam Pagett

I first met Stuart back in July 2009 when I first started volunteering for Framework.

Like me we was ex-Army (a Royal Engineer) and we hit it off straight away. In different circumstances we could have been great mates – but ours was to be a purely professional relationship.

Stuart had struggled when he left the Army. His drinking had spiralled out of control and he’d ended up homeless. He lived for several years at our supported accommodation hostel on Potter Street, Worksop, where I have been a full-time support worker since 2010.

Like all the people I support I dearly hoped that his future would be a bright one. Sadly, Stuart’s story did not have a happy ending.

I was Stuart’s support planner until 2015, when I managed to secure him more permanent supported accommodation – at a specialist facility for former servicemen in Salisbury. I also managed to get him into a specialist re-hab programme in Woking.

Potter Street exterior

Framework's Potter Street hostel, in Worksop

Stuart, who was from the Worksop area, was a really engaging and funny man. He’d joined the Army in 1986 as a Boy Soldier and, despite the many troubles of his later life, remembered his service with a great deal of pride.

Like all the people I support I dearly hoped that his future would be a bright one. Sadly, Stuart’s story did not have a happy ending.

On Christmas Eve I received a call from his sister saying that he was gravely ill in hospital and that his condition was terminal. As she was unable to travel on her own to see him, I agreed with my manager that I would drive her down to say a final goodbye when I was next in work after the Christmas that break.

As it turned out he didn’t have that long left. When I heard from his sister on Christmas Day that he was not expected to survive the next 24 hours, I took the decision to drive her through the night to see him. We arrived at just after midnight and arrived back in Worksop at 6.15am on Boxing Day.

Stuart died of organ failure at just hours later.

This is not something we regularly do (or even something we are supposed to do) but somehow this seemed like the right thing to do – a final act of care for a man who served his country so bravely but struggled so much to cope in the civilian world.

When his sister asked me to say a few words at this funeral I was deeply honoured, but I was also concerned that he wouldn’t get the send-off he deserved. You see, like many former servicemen in his position, Stuart had lost contact with his former friends and comrades.

It was unlikely that many of them would know of his death, let alone attend his funeral… and that just didn’t seem right. So his sister and I managed to track down a few of his old friends to ensure they could attend the funeral.

We also arranged for members of the Royal Engineers Association from Worksop and Doncaster to attend, and also manage to secure an honour guard from the Veteran’s Association on the day. Another veteran paid to supply an embroided Royal Engineers coffin shroud. Indeed, the warmth and generosity we witnessed over those few days was really something to behold.

Most of al we think Stuart would have been proud of the send-off he received.

Thank you for reading this blog.

*Adam is a Support Planner who works with homeless Framework residents in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

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