How to get through Valentine’s Day
February 11, 2023

I grew up with both of my parents full of love and support for each other, and plenty of love for myself and my 3 siblings.

I finished year 12, funded myself through university and made the most of life’s opportunities. I travelled and worked hard. In my 30’s I met Tim, we married and had three children together. Tim also had two children from a prior marriage, who took me in their stride and included me in their lives (and still do).

There was a point in my early 40s that I remember thinking how blessed I was. My life, although I had worked hard, was great. Tim had such a sense of adventure, in fact, our family motto was “Adventure! Adventure!” We have so many brilliant family memories of adventure and exploration, of learning and adapting to new cultures.

In September 2017, Tim had hired a campervan. He was taking “the Nutlets” on a holiday with their cousin around Victoria. Tim hadn’t been feeling very well and the night before he left he had a raging fever, which he said wasn’t “too bad” and the sweat was more a result of the spicy Thai meal he was trying to get through.

Having just recovered from a dose of “the flu” myself I encouraged him to rethink the departure and perhaps rest for a day. But no! Tim was always a man on a mission.

The next day he took some Panadol, said he “felt better” and took off with the kids in the campervan. His condition worsened during the trip but he would not go to the doctor. I remember taking a call from him whilst I was at work and somewhat frustratingly packing up my desk, as he was non-coherent when I was speaking to him and my eldest son (13 at the time) said dad was “really sick”.

I jumped in the car and headed to Shepparton, only to find that they had continued on their journey to Tocumwal, which speaks to Tim’s determination.

When I walked into the van I barely recognised Tim, he was frail and pale and trembling all over. I took him straight to the hospital, and after several x-rays he was diagnosed with pneumonia and transferred to Shepparton Hospital.

The kids and I visited him the next day. He was on oxygen and eating ice-cream, so we expected he would be home in time for the AFL grand final.

I took the kids to the Royal Melbourne Show the following day, when I got a call from the hospital. He was being moved to ICU as he was having difficulty with his breathing. I was advised he had eyes on him and it was a precautionary
measure. I planned to visit the next day.

At 10pm that night I got “the call”. Tim had stopped breathing. I remember the words “Code Blue” and the advice to get to the hospital ASAP.

I remember walking into the ICU, I saw Tim though a sliver of glass in the door and I knew at that moment that he wasn’t coming home. I sat with Tim through the night, I held his hand, whilst not particularly religious, I prayed to St Timothy and to St Bernadine of Siena who I discovered was the patron saint of pneumonia.

I didn’t know what else to do. I cried buckets, and then I said to him in a small moment of clarity and peace: “You can go now Tim, I love you so much. We will get through this, we will be ok, you need to go, it’s ok”.

The aching loss I felt for weeks was paralysing. I’m so grateful to my community, family and friends, as somehow things got done while my heart was broken. I was empty, exhausted and terrified.

I remember looking at our children, at Tim’s children, who he absolutely adored. He was so proud of all of them and I knew I had to help them through to be the best they could be, to be the great people he had nurtured and parented. Tim would have wanted his legacy to continue, for there to be adventure and learning and laughter. He’d want teeth checked, sport played and our children to be socially competent and polite.

I also knew that he loved me and that he would want me to hold a space for him in my heart, to hold our memories close and to be financially responsible! (It was a Tim thing). 

So I find myself now, more than five years on, connecting with my younger self, knowing that my life is about hard work, but it is also about loving relationships and adventure and I am better for having had 17 years of Tim in my life, 15 of them happily married.

I joined the First Light Widowed Association as it was other young widows and widowers who reached out to me in those early days, who were truthful about the challenges, but who also showed me that there was life to be had after this tragic and hurtful loss. So my fellow widows and widowers, it is a tough hand to be dealt and whilst the hole remains, life does go on. It may not be the one you thought you were going to have, but it can be great and fulfilling.

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