I hesitate outside the door. As is often the case, it can be hard to tell whether the offer of a cup of tea to the patient or the family might be welcome. But I always ask.
It's late afternoon: the room is dimly lit and there is scented oil burning in a holder. A patient, a young woman, is sleeping peacefully in her bed.
Her husband is in the corner of her room quietly finishing a bowl of soup and her best friend gently taps out an email to a round robin group. They both sit in amongst festive hospice-tinsel peacefully sharing the profound intimacy of the space. No tea is needed for now.
This scene will be replicated in hospices across the world on any given day of the year but today we are only hours away from Christmas morning, and somehow it feels different.
On my next tour of the ward a few minutes later I find the woman's friend sitting outside the room, head down on the small table in front of her and, as I gently lay my hand on her shoulder, she looks up - yes, a cup of tea would now be most welcome.
We share tea and a mince pie, chat and hold hands. She confesses she envies her friend's sense of peace and calm. She talks about her sadness at losing her, particularly at Christmas.
She cries a little and giggles too as she admits to wanting nothing more than a very large glass of wine (which we provide). Afterwards, she gets up and goes back into the room where she holds vigil for her friend.
Christmas in Britain comes at a cold, dark time of year. At the hospice, as elsewhere, we dress the wards up to keep the cold and dark at bay, and bring as much warmth and light to those spending Christmas with us as we can.
Some people find winter here a bleak experience as some people find the thought of death a bleak prospect. Yet as a volunteer on the inpatient at Royal Trinity Hospice I am privileged to see it is not all bleak.
The woman knows that she has loved and is loved, and that her Christmas gift is to bring her friends and family together to share and celebrate that. It is the greatest gift we can give each other and we don't have to wait to die to share it.
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