Dunstable childminder Kirstie Riches has a white wooden cutout on her windowsill which reads ‘Family.’
It’s a poignant reminder of her grandfather James Dennis ‘Jim’ Green, known to his family as the ‘Sand Castle King.’
“He was a real family man and was always hands-on with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she recalled.
In January this year no less than 18 members of ‘Team Green – as they call themselves – went on a memorable adventure to Goa.
“We always try to do a winter sun holiday,” Kirstie, 31, of Downs Road explained. “We like to see in the New Year together.”
Sadly it was to be their last – Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when they returned and died in April.
“In less than 10 week our lives were turned upside down,” Kirstie said. “His cancer was stage 4 and had already spread to his liver.”
The former engineer who lived at Graphic Close was admitted to Keech Hospice Care shortly before he died.
His family will always be grateful for the love and support they received there.
Kirstie, who runs LKK Childminding with her mum and sisters, said: “They’re amazing, fantastic, truly remarkable. Each and every member of staff oozes love, care and compassion.
“And it’s not just medical attention – they bathed him, they shaved him, they moisturised him. We couldn’t believe what they did for him.
“And they looked after us as well. There was tea, toast, coffee and biscuits constantly on tap – and just a small wooden box for donations.
“Our family makes the Waltons look small but they made us all comfortable, allowing us to spend precious final moments with the head of our family.
“My nan Eileen and their three daughters slept in his room and they gave us two rooms as well. It was so surreal, like living in a bubble.
“Grandad hung on for five days. He wasn’t going to go until he’d said goodbye to everyone.
“Thanks to Keech his end was dignified, pain-free and peaceful. To them, the end is just as important as the beginning - and that’s just as it should be.
“After he died it was almost as difficult saying goodbye to them as it had been to him.”
Now Kirstie is organising a 1950s charity event in memory of her beloved Grandad with all proceeds going to the hospice.
“We want to give something back to the wonderful staff who cared for him,” she said.
“Grandad would have loved it,” the mother-of-two added wistfully. “It’s at Dunstable’s United Services Club where he was a life member and his favourite band, the Rockettes, are playing.
“He and my Nan lived life to the full. He taught her to jive and she showed him how to roller skate. Even though they were in their 70s, they were very young at heart.”
She added: “We had such a special relationship because I was his first granddaughter and my son was his first great grandson. There were lots of significant milestones.
“He taught me the importance of family.”