I'm doing marathon to thank hospice for all it did for my Stacey
WATCHING the final days of her 16-year-old daughter's life was an horrific experience for Denise Glaister. But her distress as she comforted Stacey was eased by staff at the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice.
The single mother from east Belfast said she will forever be grateful for the care her beloved only daughter received as she died from spina bifida complications.
Now she is preparing to walk a nine-mile section of the Belfast Marathon to raise cash for the Newtownabbey charity.
On Monday Denise (42) and 20-strong Team Stacey will be in pink when they take to the course for the second year in a row.
They will be raising vital funds for the Children's Hospice through the Stacey Glaister Tribute Fund and honouring the memory of the bubbly teen who died at home on September 18, 2011.
"It's vital people understand the importance of funding for the Children's Hospice," Denise told the Belfast Telegraph.
"They came in at a difficult time in our lives, when Stacey was going to die, and helped with practical stuff, but it was much more than that. They gave her some level of quality of life."
Music therapy lifted the Mitchell House pupil's spirits during her illness and gave Denise, brother Andrew and the wider family memories to cherish forever.
"The arts, crafts and music therapy was so important to Stacey," Denise said. "She was always known for her singing, but when she got sick she lost her song.
"Then the Children's Hospice organised music therapy and I could hear my child singing again – it was priceless. For an hour a week she forgot she was dying, and we have audio clips of her that we treasure."
Denise paid tribute to her courageous girl.
"Stacey was full of life and always smiling," she said.
"She was very outgoing and sociable and loved drama, dance and being the centre of attention.
"Even when she got ill she never lost the ability to smile. She faced death head-on; she knew her symptoms could have been eased with further treatment but she didn't want to die in hospital."
Denise is determined to be positive and knows Stacey would be proud of what she is doing.
The heartbroken mum spoke fondly of the hospice team and said they continue to provide her with much-needed support.
"The Children's Hospice will always be close to my heart for the help they gave Stacey and me," she said. "Stacey's nurse Angela still helps me to this day. I would have been lost over the last year-and-a-half without them.
"Marathon day will be hugely emotional.
"When people look at a hospice story they think of a sad story, but it's also a story full of hope.
"It's for Stacey and knowing we are doing something fun to support a cause she felt so passionate about is a positive thing."