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Leon’s story

Shared by Leon’s mum, Dianne.

Many local people have a connection to Sobell House because their loved one received their care, but my son, Leon Gledhill, has a different connection to the hospice.

Leon was a volunteer gardener at Sobell House for six years, up until he passed away in 2019 at the age of 44. Leon suffered from mental health problems, and although he tried in many ways to alleviate his illness, he finally took the way out that some deep sufferers do, and died by suicide.

We all miss him deeply; he was such a contributive and caring person, both to his friends and family.

With the help of his sister and Restore, Leon was encouraged to become a volunteer gardener at Sobell House. He attended every week, unless he was too unwell, when he would phone in to his supervisor with his apologies. He enjoyed the manual work very much and sometimes joined in socially at Christmas. He had a good rapport with the receptionist, and she told me that they would often have a little joke and laugh when he arrived on his bicycle to start his work.

When the extension work at the hospice started in 2017, many plants had to be taken out of the gardens in order to make room. Leon suggested that the plants were potted up and sold, with the proceeds to go to Sobell House. He was, at that time, doing a horticultural course at Waterperry Gardens, and so he collected some of their recyclable plant pots to help with this project. Leon took me to Sobell House so I could buy one of the potted-up plants and plant it in my garden in my house in Iffley.

Leon worked hard in the gardens – the gardeners and staff were really appreciative of his innovation and help, and told me so when I went to visit them after he had passed away.

Pictured: the Acer tree planted at Sobell
Pictured: Dianne and Leon at Wytham Woods
Pictured: the bench plaque at Chilswell Nature Reserve

As a family, we spent some time figuring out how to commemorate Leon; we have a beautiful bench with a plaque on, dedicated to him, at Chilswell Nature Reserve or ‘Happy Valley’ – this was one of his favourite spots. He also loved Port Meadow, so with permission we have planted some hazel trees in Burgess Field that are doing well (after a second attempt to get them going).

At Sobell House we were able to plant an Acer tree in his memory, which is also doing well. I sometimes visit the hospice to check on the Acer tree, and I also love to attend Sobell House’s annual Lights of Love ceremony to remember and celebrate Leon. It gives me great comfort to remember him in these ways.

Two years ago, I felt moved to write and publish the story of Leon’s life and death entitled ‘A Bird of Paradise, Lost’. Please get in touch if you would be interested in receiving a copy.

Thank you so much to Dianne for kindly sharing Leon’s story and his time spent at Sobell House.

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