I KNEW the day would come when I would collect those things. A watch, a wedding ring, an overnight bag.

It was late January 2015 when we arrived at the Marie Curie Hospice to be handed our dad’s bag of things and go through the form-filling. There was hard snow on the ground, clinging stubbornly to the hilly street leading up to the hospice. The snow had been softly falling days earlier when I’d arrived with him in the ambulance; a journey that took us past the pub where he played dominoes every Thursday.

My dad spent the last two days of his life in the hospice. Before that he’d been at home, as he wished, for those final weeks when the illness he’d lived with for over two years was defeating him. I know what a ‘good death’ means, and I know towards the end at home it was pretty awful for us, but he had the care he needed. The Marie Curie nurses were marvellous; coming to the house at night, in the snow, to sit with him while I got some sleep. The care in the hospice was marvellous too, and those last two days as he slipped away were mercifully peaceful.

It’s something most of us will go through; the process of dealing with death that at times feels like an out-of-body experience. And when it happens, the end of life care and bereavement support that charities like Marie Curie provide means everything.

Tragically, it is something thousands of people are missing out on. Marie Curie is warning of a ‘silent crisis’ behind closed doors, with, it says, 70 per cent of people whose loved one died at home last year not getting all the care and support they needed. ONS data has revealed that there were 614,114 deaths in England and Wales in 2020, which Marie Curie says equates to 75,031 more than the average for each of the five previous years. And 167,846 of these deaths happened at home - a significant increase on an ongoing trend.

Marie Curie is calling on the Government to increase investment in community services caring for those reaching the end of their life at home. Chief executive Matthew Reed says: “Sadly, we have entered a New Year where we continue to see thousands more people dying unexpectedly. While we must do all we can to protect the NHS and help it through this third wave of Covid-19, we must also reflect on what we can learn about the people who died in 2020 from other causes, and those who died at home.

“Many more people died at home in 2020 but we did not see significantly increased resources to support those people.

“Marie Curie nurses have shared harrowing stories from the frontline in the pandemic, of isolated families trying to make do, struggling to access face-to-face support from healthcare professionals trying to be both a daughter and a doctor, and having to manage pain relief drugs for loved ones dying in the front room.”

We’re in the grip of a pandemic, with a grim tally of Covid deaths just announced. Resources are overstretched, and for many patients dying at home is not an option. But non Covid-related terminal illness is still happening, and if people can die at home it takes some of the pressure from hospitals.

As Matthew Reed says, for those who choose to be at home for their final days “the support must be there to make sure people have a good death, free from pain, and their loved ones fully supported.”

I will never forget what Marie Curie did for my dad. Every spring I wear a daffodil badge and make a donation, but it takes so much more than that to continue the end of life support that rising numbers of people need.