While she was doing research, Cicely began to gather together a group of like-minded professional friends, doctors, nurses and others, who knew about the problem. They were a vital advisory group to work out what was needed and how the need could be met practically. Some from her Medical course at St Thomas’s were in the group. They concluded that the answer was a dedicated hospital for the terminally ill, which should be called a hospice.
The name St Christopher’s Hospice was agreed after the Saint who carried the Christ child across the river. St Christopher’s Hospice would not only care for patients, but also do research and teach other professionals – nurses, doctors and others – to use elsewhere the improvements they made in the care of the dying. This academic approach with three components – care, research and teaching – would be a tremendous strength, distinguishing St Christopher’s from existing charitable hospices for the chronically sick.
One of the early questions I discussed with Cicely was if they were successful, how to spread the word? Would St Christopher’s be the head of a group of subsidiary or daughter houses, like the medieval monastic orders or not? The answer soon emerged – no, don’t organise it that way, that leads to bureaucracy and expense, and inflexibility – much better to give every possible aid and encouragement to people who wanted to start similar hospices elsewhere, but who would inevitably be confronted with quite different circumstances, different sources of finance and so on. So that was the answer – We will give you all the help we can – have a look at what we do, then come here to be trained, then send your staff here to be trained, take away what you need. We will keep in touch, tell you results from our research, and be available to help you.
Things developed well. Cicely found she had a talent for fund-raising, no doubt our father’s great abilities as a salesman turned into reverse, selling people on giving you money. She said “Once we had a plan I plundered the City charities, to buy the site and start building”.
Cicely came across work by people in different parts of the world, but particularly in the United States, on the problems of death and dying, control of pain and looking after terminally ill patients. In 1963 I had come across the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust of Boston USA, and introduced her. They gave her a grant to travel to the United States to meet a number of people who she had already identified as being involved in this field. She went on an eight week visit to the States. There she found that she was able to introduce people in America to others they did not know working on the same problems.
This first visit to America, and the impact of American energy and can-do spirit, made a dramatic difference to Cicely. She gave lectures to nursing and medical students at Yale organised by a wonderful woman, Florence Wald, then the dean of the Yale University Nursing School. After visiting St Christopher’s in 1968 Florence was inspired to start planning the first modern hospice in the United States in Newhaven, Connecticut. A by-product was that Dean Florence successfully nominated Cicely for an honorary DSc at Yale for the work she had been doing in the care of the terminally ill. This was a great occasion in 1969, which several members of our family attended.