When it comes to heroic people going out of their way to raise awareness or money for a good cause, Bethan Jones is surely one that stands out. Her mother passed away aged 47 in the Nightingale Hospice three years ago and Bethan was so impressed with the level of care and attention that her mum received in the two weeks she was there that she was inspired to carry out 50 tasks this year to celebrate her mum’s life and memory.
Hi, Bethan Jones. Can you start by telling me a little about yourself?
I’m 25 and I’ve got two younger sisters. Hannah’s four years younger than me, Rebecca’s 10 years younger and I’ve got a niece, Ava, who’s 18 months old. She makes me laugh more than anybody – she’s so funny!
That must be hard for your dad looking after four girls!
We don’t see my dad. He left when my mum was three months’ pregnant with Rebecca so I look after the three girls. I’m Rebecca’s guardian and we all live in my flat in New Broughton. That’s how it’s been for the last 15 years.
You’re very brave. How did you come up with the idea to do the 50 tasks?
I thought she’d be 50 next year and it’d be three years since we lost her so it just came from there really.
At first, I wondered about having a party, but I thought “No! Let’s do it properly and run 50 events that can spread the word about the hospice”. It’s great to raise money, but it’s more important to raise awareness about the place. Everyone knows about it, but not necessarily the extent of what they do. It’s so positive and so much love is in that building.
I describe Mum’s experience as bittersweet because what she had to go through was awful, but the staff there are just wonderful – everybody is so caring and you come out feeling part of their family. The love and support and then the counselling afterwards are just incredible.
Although some people don’t want to step foot back in the place after they’ve lost somebody and I completely understand that, we love it there. We don’t go onto the ward now because we had a little bit of a breakdown when we went back once and it’s too hard to go there now, but we still go into reception and chat to the staff.
Fifty is an ambitious number of events – are you planning to do this in a 12-month period?
Yes, it’s up until December, but they’re not all going to be massive events – that’d be ridiculous. No person could do that unless you give up your job and don’t see anybody for 12 months.
I put a video out in September last year and it’s had nearly 5,000 views and now I just need to get those people involved! I want to go there, I really do because what a way to die. It’s so peaceful and loving with everybody around you and shouldn’t we be able to choose where we die?
Absolutely. How did you find out about the hospice?
My mum worked for ALAC, the Artificial Limb Appliance Centre, for 30 years and delivered wheelchairs to people in the hospice so she was always a big advocate. I knew about it, but I didn’t really understand what was involved.
How long was she there for in the end?
Just over a fortnight. The day after she was admitted, my sister and I were taken aside and told “Look, you haven’t got long. We don’t know how long, but book time off work”. And that was it, I called my job and told them I wouldn’t be in. I still stand by the fact that she would have died much more quickly in hospital. We thought it was remarkable for her to be still hanging on two and a half weeks later.
Fifty tasks is between four and five a month, isn’t it?
We didn’t start till about March so now they’re coming thick and fast now. We combine them as much as possible and do about three in one event. At my mum’s birthday party, we had a raffle, a ‘guess baby Lindsey’ and ‘leave a message on a tree’
Sorry, ‘guess baby Lindsey’?
(Laughs) We had nine pictures of babies, one of them was my mum and everyone had to guess which one she was.
One was my uncle, one was Hannah because she looked the most like my mum as a baby and we also had photos of Nicole Kidman and Harrison Ford as babies! I made all the photos black and white so people wouldn’t know who they were. It was quite an interesting experience – people got quite into it and wouldn’t leave until I told them who they all were!
We also had a tree where everyone could leave a message for my mum if they left a donation to the hospice. All the lovely messages and comments made us realise that it’s not just us that thinks she was a wonderful woman, everyone else does too.
How did the sponsored silence go? I bet your sisters weren’t happy with that!
Yeah, because they had to make decisions without me and that didn’t go down too well! I stayed quiet the entire 24 hours. It was really the only thing I struggled with because although I like to be quiet – I am the quiet one in the house, believe it or not – not saying hello to people, coming in here (The Enterprise Hub) and not saying “Morning”. That was the most difficult part. When I went for coffee in the morning, I had to sign what I wanted! Not easy!
The most challenging event was running the 10k trail run at Erddig. I’m not a runner so training three months for a 10k run was really hard. The run itself was horrendous: there had been a rainstorm the night before so it was thick mud and all seemed to be uphill!
I’m also doing the Colour Run in September. It’s a 4km run around Bangor-On-Dee racecourse. You cover yourself in two pots of powder paint which you’re given when you arrive. Then, throughout the race, you get more paint thrown at you!
I did that before three years ago on the day we got called into the hospice. I’d just finished the run and looked at my phone to take photos because we were covered from head-to-toe in paint. I had 12 missed calls from my sisters and the hospice. We jumped in the car and rushed back to Wrexham. I walked in covered in paint! I ended up having a shower in the room – I covered the walls in paint, I left my mark. That could only have happened to me: turning up at my mother’s deathbed covered in paint.
Are you doing a special one at Christmas to finish the whole thing off?
Yes, we’re doing a calendar for the hospice because they don’t do one – I’m trying to convince them to do it calendar-girl style! Not to dismiss the seriousness of what they do at all, but I think the staff need some fun and having a light-hearted calendar for the hospice would be a lovely way to show what kind of place it is. I think after a glass of wine, they might be ready for it!
So what’s next?
I’m climbing Snowdon in September with ALAC. My mum loved that job and these people she worked with. It was her second home really so to do that as a group, that would be lovely.
Have you done anything scary?
I’ve jumped out of a plane which was the best thing I’ve ever done and something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I love roller coasters, heights, that kind of thing. I always wanted to do it, but my mum never wanted me to so I’ve had the last word! To jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet, that’s pretty spectacular. I loved it!
Where did you do it?
Well, the club’s in Whitchurch and we were at 10,000 feet so you could see right across to Liverpool and the Wirral.
Were you holding onto someone?
Yeah, it was tandem freefall skydiving. You’re not allowed to jump on your own until you’ve done a certain number of jumps. Gary, the chaplain at Nightingale and a member of Whitchurch Skydiving Club, was in the plane with me. He skydives as a hobby. He’s one of the members of staff that was very close to us when we lost mum. He hasn’t admitted it, but I think he made sure I was in the plane with him. He had a GoPro camera on his helmet and he jumped out backwards so he was looking up at me. I went out straight after him so he was able to film the entire thing.
Emotionally speaking, which one has been the hardest so far?
My mum’s birthday party. I was running on adrenaline for weeks before while I was planning it. When it came to the day, as soon as everything was up and running, that was it: I was gone. That was difficult.
Where did you hold it?
In Caffi Cwtch at Nightingale House – the food there is incredible. It meant a lot to have it in the place where we lost her with our closest friends and family celebrating with us.
I made a speech which I’d done before at Nightingale’s Light Up A Life on why the hospice means so to me, but to do it there at her 50th birthday was tough. I’m so glad I did it though. She wouldn’t have liked that we held a party; she didn’t like being the centre of attention, but we’d still have done it if she’d been here!
So are you going to do a little presentation and say this is what we did in January, February?
Every time I’ve done an event, I’ve filmed it because that’s my background, I’m into film and animation. I was a videographer so I want to do one big montage. It’ll be great for Ava as well. She’s only 18 months old, but we get her involved – we talk to her about Grandma so it’ll be great for her to watch it when she’s older.
Thank you for the interview Bethan Jones. Do you have any final thoughts?
I look back at all that hard work and think ‘what a year’! We only got four months with mum after she was diagnosed so we never got the chance to start a bucket list, but I’ll have managed to start and finish it… all in one year!
Thank you so much Bethan Jones!
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