This is the hardest post I’ve ever had to write. Never thought or even considered I would. I doubt it’s something anyone in a beautiful, close marriage or relationship ever contemplates.
But… for my readers who don’t already know, the devastating news is that my husband, Paul, died suddenly from a massive heart attack – officially at 12.20 a.m. on Friday, 21st June. I was with him.
His mum has lost her firstborn son, his children have lost their adored dad, his step-children “their hero”, his brothers and sister a great brother and brother-in-law, and all family and friends have lost a wonderful man and mate.
His business-partner, “brother” and close mate, Pete (who Paul called “Blue” or “geez”), is carrying on the good work, whilst as shocked, shaken and distraught as the rest of us. We are all getting through this together and with love.
To lose the love of your life is not something anyone really dwells upon nor is prepared to face. I am immensely proud Paul chose me as his wife, after grieving for his own first wife, Jan, who also died suddenly in 2002, and far too young.
Paul was well-known and popular in the drag-racing field – at one time British Champion in his Class – a master mechanic, bespoke engine-builder (mostly for American and classic cars), known for his love of tea, cake and biscuits and also for his love of military, aircraft and tank history as well as World War I and II history. There are tribute threads to Paul here and here and here.
And films: Two Lane Black-Top, Pearl Harbour, Memphis Belle, Blade and American Graffiti being some favourites. And TV: Band of Brothers, sci-fi and Star Trek and Dr. Who and Homeland and American Pickers and Pawn Stars and Antiques Roadshow and Deadliest Catch.
And music: funk (James Brown was king), Big Country, soul, reggae including UB40 who we saw live four times, and (you may be surprised, here) also Cajun, which he was playing in the truck a lot lately – Dewey Balfa. And ‘tiffling’, tidying and mending things. And walking the dog. And always, always driving, cruising, enjoying… Ohhhh, there’s lots more…
He was the kind of man other human beings aspire to be: loving, relaxed, dependable, ever-helpful, funny with a surreal sense of humour, and with some wonderful personal catch-phrases people remember. Of this, he would have said “shit happens”.
We originally met at school and liked each other, walking together the twenty-six miles to Southend on Sea one time for a sponsored walk, aged sixteen both of us. But, at our school, you would never hear the last of it (massive mickey-taking) if you ‘became a couple’ so nothing ever transpired, though we knew we liked each other and we moved in the same crowd. Later, when I’d been a divorced parent, alone with my children for ten years or so, we met again at a (gasp) 30 year school reunion in Marbella. We got on automatically, just chatting, and later dated.
After a few weeks, we told each other the very worst things about ourselves. We needed to trust – because we both had children to think about if we were to get involved. Despite our worst features and mistakes, etc., we decided we still wanted to be together. I’m glad we did that, though. The rest, as they say, is history…
Obviously, my world has shattered – as well as that of his mum, his and my children, and his family and friends. It’s impossible to come to terms with Paul’s death just now. It’s hard to think beyond this moment, which is good, because the thought of a possible number of years without him is unbearable.
I still expect him to walk in, say “Hello, blossom,” and hug me. I can hear his comments and classic funny remarks about programmes if I switch on the TV. I keep going to call him on the phone during the day, as I usually did. As well as chatting and joking all day with him, I have a special End Of Day chat with Paul every night before sleep. So… you know…
We’d had a wonderful day on the Thursday 20th June. It was my birthday – I’d been down with the dog to Paul’s workshop and we were singing along with YouTube and doing the actions to The Supremes: “Stop In The Name Of Love”. We had a fairly modest carvery meal in the evening, sang all the way back in the truck, and settled down with a box of birthday strawberries to watch the telly.
All this with no warning or sign at all. It was the end of a perfect day. That is something with which I can comfort myself at times but, obviously, I’m in the early days of grief and this post is very difficult to write. That perfect day became my, and others’, world’s worst day within minutes.
Right now, those stages of grief I’d researched for my fiction writing may come in waves all in one day, sometimes within an hour or minutes. But one thing’s for sure: he remains in my heart and mind, all around me, and I hear Paul gently guiding me still, and – you know me – I talk with him all the time.
The family have been amazing, supportive and loving – when all our hearts are broken, and our worlds ripped apart. The funeral was hugely attended, so that fifty people spilled outside to watch on a screen and hear through speakers. I felt as though I was greeting people at our wedding again, with Paul always nearby. When he had your back, all was well. Grief does weird things.
There was a mark of respect when all the American and classic cars were started up together at the crematorium after the funeral service. Apparently, there were complaints about the din. Paul would have laughed at that. And the flower arrangement sent by mates saying “Shit Happens” in carnations.
Even the pets, who Paul called “the kids” (now our own kids are independent) are affected. Harry the dog misses Paul loads and is finally allowed to sleep on our bed. Beryl does appear subdued but then she’s one subdued cat, not given to drama.
Now that Paul’s death and this devastating, disorientating, desperate sense of loss has happened, it’s confirmed many things. The most important thing in life is love – for without any love at all, life is more about endurance than living. It’s important to go on, as he has shown me how.
There are still loves in my life, the chief ones being the children. My heart is breaking for the children and Paul’s mum, while I try to get through this myself. But I’ve promised not to let down Paul or myself, family and friends, and to do the best I can.
I’ve been extremely lucky to have been able to share Paul’s life so intimately, constantly loved, encouraged and cared for by him so powerfully, and taught by him not to take life too seriously.
Some people will never find that kind of love, so I’ll be eternally thankful for the precious nine years we spent together and all the love that we had. Rest in peace, my darling Paul.
I’ll leave this post with some photos…
Comments welcome, as always…