2) Let me tell you about Nicola

I guess it would be a good idea to tell you about the lady who is the reason I’m writing this blog in the first place.

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Nicola in York, May 2016

I spent 11 years with Nicola – eight of those as her husband – and we had a fantastic and fun-filled life together. Having met through work, it very quickly became apparent to us both that we’d spend our lives together, to the point that we talked quite frankly about getting married barely a month or so after moving into our first house.

Nicola was clever, beautiful, bubbly, happy, friendly and one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. She’d be the last person to admit to any of those things, being the modest type, but there was no denying it in my eyes.

When we met, she was a receptionist at one of the papers I worked for, but being a graduate she always possessed the ability and desire to truly fulfil her potential and not long after we married she decided she wanted to pursue a career in primary school teaching.

This didn’t surprise me – Nicola was always great with kids who without fail responded well to her and the thought of her being a big influence on young lives pleased me greatly. Sure enough, she took to studying for her PGCE like a duck to water, won an award in the process for outstanding academic achievement and before long was marshalling classes of four and five-year-olds with great expertise.

The children loved her. We can probably all remember our first teachers, some fondly, some perhaps not, but Nicola without question is one that will always be remembered with great affection as her pupils grow up. That’s been highlighted by messages I’ve seen from some of their parents since she died.

I remember Nicola returning home at the end of one of her placements whilst she was training. She’d only taught at the school for a couple of months but the pupils were sad to see her go and showered her with cards and gifts.  One card stood out and it was from a parent – it read: “Thank you for everything you’ve done for my daughter. She used to dislike going to school and cried about it a lot, but your influence has made her love going to school again and she’s progressed no end.”

That about sums up how good Nicola was and during her tragically short career, in which she ended up working at schools where some children had come from quite tough backgrounds, she continued to inspire them, sometimes even galvanising one or two from being largely illiterate and uncommunicative pupils to thriving ones.

 

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Our wedding in 2009

 

It broke her heart when her illness forced her to halt the career she loved.

Away from work, Nicola was just as influential. Despite being very different in many ways, we complemented each other perfectly and whilst she sometimes couldn’t work out why I loved her so much – and vice-versa – we just did, and it worked perfectly.

As is quite often the prerogative of young, childless couples, we wanted to make sure we made the most of life with just the two of us before the burdens of careers, parenting and age potentially took over.

We loved to travel. We took in a great number of city breaks and sun-soaked beaches across Europe and spent a three-week honeymoon visiting parts of the USA, including a week-long cruise around Hawaii.

Having always loved travelling before I met Nicola, doing so with her was something I was always keen to do from the off and I’m so glad we got to see what we did, when we did. The memories created are priceless.

Nicola got the travel bug too and whenever the chance arose we’d be off somewhere, even if it was a break away in this country. With her family having built a house in Ireland – where we both have roots – nipping over there for a few days also became one of our favourite excursions.

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The two of us in Hawaii

Back at home we enjoyed socialising with friends and being uncle and auntie to our nieces, something which gave us a degree of experience for what was to follow when our daughter arrived.

The decision to start a family wasn’t taken lightly – Nicola’s career was in its early days, mine kept me busy too and we were loving life together. But we both had a desire to be parents and given we were in our thirties it was probably a case of now or never.

So, when Grace arrived in 2014, our lives were complete. Nicola loved being a mum and her bond with Grace was as special as you’d want any maternal bond to be, likewise my own with our darling daughter.

It could well have been that we’d have had more children (although probably only one more for my sanity’s sake…) but when Grace was 11-months-old our perfect lives would be turned upside down, and that’s where the next blog will pick up the story.

 

 

 

1) So why on earth am I doing this?

cropped-20170710_185720.jpgI’m writing this first blog just 12 days after my wife, Nicola, died aged 35. It was cancer that did it, but there will be more on that in the next blog.

The reasons behind me opting to do this are numerous. Firstly, I’m a journalist by trade, so splurging out lots of words in an attempt to tell a story comes rather naturally.

Secondly, it’ll probably be something of a cathartic exercise. Talking to people is one thing, but being able to sit down and put ‘pen to paper’ on something that has had a profound affect on you is quite another and is probably that bit more effective when it comes to both successfully communicating your feelings and also ensuring your words are processed as desired by those reading them.

I also want this to help people. That might refer to people in my own circle of family and friends who will initially read it out of sympathy and then realise it’s actually not that bad after all, or it could refer to those who discover it by accident and find it helps them with a similar situation they might be dealing with.

It’s pretty specific. I’m a 38-year-old man who has just been tasked with the job of bringing up my beautiful three-year-old daughter, Grace, whilst trying to maintain her mummy’s influence despite her not being around anymore. Quite how that’s going to go, I have no idea, but at least doing this blog from the off means people can experience that journey with me if they so desire. I don’t know how long I’ll blog for, perhaps until people stop reading or if I feel like neither I or anyone else is getting much benefit from it for whatever reason.

Either way, whilst it’s true the situation I now find myself in is far from unique and there will be others who have been through very similar scenarios, this is about us and if people like what this blog will provide then that’ll do for me.

As I write this, I’m in something of a haze given how recently Nicola passed away, and that in itself will probably provide the background for a future blog. Nevertheless, having spent the last few days talking, reminiscing, laughing and crying about the wonderful woman who has just left us, I feel the clarity of my feelings can only improve by refusing to bottle them up.

So, stay tuned as I attempt to prove it.