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Hospice chef recalls recreating Christmas Day at home for young ill mum and her family

'I will never forget being able to provide this for her. She was so overwhelmed'

Gary O'Hare, head chef at Southern Area Hospice

For patients in Southern Area Hospice, the Christmas holiday may be the last one they spend with family, so staff make every effort to make it as memorable as possible.

Head chef at the hospice Gary O’Hare has been doing the job since 2001 and will be working this Christmas Day.

He says Christmas is always a very special time at the hospice and while it can often be quite emotional it is very rewarding as well.

“I remember one year there was a young mother in and on Christmas Day we set up our day centre room as if it was her home,” he said.

“Her young kids, partner and family came in for Christmas dinner; she was bedbound so she had to be taken outside and come in through the double doors.

“The kids waited to open their presents in front of her and they all had a four-course dinner which we provided, and it was like home from home.

“I will never forget being able to provide this for her. She was so overwhelmed.”

He said the hard work of the entire catering team allows patients to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner.

“They make sure to include all the trimming, and for those who don’t fancy a Christmas dinner, they will make them whatever they want,” he said.

“There will also be home-made Christmas cake and mince pies on hand throughout the holidays.”

The hospice’s Inpatient Unit in Newry provides 24-hour palliative and end-of- life care 365 days a year for patients and their families in the Southern Trust area.

A spokesperson for the hospice said staff working over Christmas and the New Year “consider it a privilege to be able to help patients and their families at a very difficult time”.

For more details on the services provided and ways to donate, visit

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