In October 1988 I walked into a pub after work (I was 17 at the time – oops!) and sitting with some friends was the man who would later become my husband. We didn’t know it then, and we didn’t start going out with each other until the following April. Fast forward another seven years and we’re married, and then five years later we become parents, five years later our family is complete.
Fast forward 32 years and eight months from that original meeting, and we’re sitting in the non-descript office of a consultant being told that the journey we’ve shared together is coming to an end, because Peter has pancreatic cancer. The words “inoperable” and “months” hit me like a physical punch in my gut, so much so that I gasp.
The consultant asks what Pete has been taking for the pain and suggests codeine, Pete says he has been avoiding it because he hears it can be addictive and in the middle of the huge wave of grief that’s just hit us, we laugh at the absurdity of him worrying about becoming addicted when he’s not really got the time to get addicted to anything. “All bets are off”, I say.
I can’t describe what the last 48 hours have been like. Because I can’t put into words the visceral pain of telling two teenage girls that their Dad isn’t going to be around much longer and watching them crumble in front of us, knowing there’s nothing we can do to take the pain away.
Through thick and thin
Pete has been my constant, through thick and thin, I often reflect in the car on my journey to work how the last 32 years with him have shaped me as a person, so much so that I sometimes don’t know where he ends and I begin. Every time he says “I’m so proud of you” (and he says it often) I always respond with “I couldn’t do it without you”, and now I have to. Now I have to face the prospect of getting up every day and facing the world without the person who is so much a part of me that I can’t imagine how I’m going to exist when I can no longer just share my thoughts with him. I’m really struggling to comprehend a world where he isn’t there anymore.
We’ve told our family, and close friends. I have to say that people’s kindness and generosity have staggered us. There have been so many tears I feel like I could drown and I’m also really angry. Because here is one of the gentlest, kindest, most thoughtful and caring men I know and he’s had the chance to see his daughters grow up taken away from him. Ridiculous things pop into my head. All that knowledge, kindness and talent as an artist and maker will disappear when he goes. Who is going to make me laugh every day, as he has done for the last 32 years? Sometimes to the point of crying and shaking with laughter. Pete’s humour is wicked. I’ll miss it so much. No matter what the world has thrown at me, I have always felt totally safe, because I’ve always had him by my side. I know I can do this alone, but I really wish I didn’t have to.
Yesterday I read an article which asked ‘what would your obituary say about you?’ only the other week I commented that it was such a shame that people don’t tell others what they would say about them in their obituary before they die. Pete’s will say that he really was the kindest, gentlest, funniest man, with the most enormous talent who has made such a huge difference to so many lives in so many ways. An awesome teacher, artist, father, friend and husband. I wouldn’t have changed any part of the last 32 years, and I wouldn’t be who I am without him. I know I’ll miss him forever.
This series continues with part two here
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