Just before Christmas we were approached by the regional news programme, BBC Look North, who wanted to come to the Centre to film a segment for their upcoming feature on volunteering in the area. They were particularly interested in talking to Paula and Paul Roberts.
Paula had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in the Summer of 2010 – almost literally out of the blue. She and her husband Paul – the parents of two young children – turned up on our doorstep in a state of shock having been told that her life expectancy could be measured out in months rather than years.
Together we set out on an extraordinary journey which took us to places none of us could ever have imagined on that chill late summer’s afternoon two and half years ago. They became our close friends and we became – I hope – their haven and second family.
In due course, having succeeded in beating back her illness, Paula joined our Board of Trustees and took an active and enthusiastic part in our Volunteer programme. She wrote perceptive and articulate letters of support for our funding applications, was a vocal and persuasive supporter of the Centre and became a powerful ambassador for us in the local community.
By the time the Look North film crew arrived last Wednesday however, Paula was gravely ill. She was nevertheless absolutely determined to face the cameras and tell her story.
Tell her story she did: and she was magnificent.
Within 24 hours she had been admitted to hospital, and yesterday – with Paul at her bedside – she slipped peacefully away at the age of 44.
She fought her illness with grace, humour and a splendid – even breathtaking - bloody-mindedness. The Look North interview was both her swan song and her parting gift to us.
It will be shown – with Paul’s blessing - on BBC1 between 6.30 and 7.00pm on Monday the 28th.
Rest in peace, Paula. It was truly amazing knowing you.
(Photograph: Copyright Jacqueline Moore Photography.)