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.
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.
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.
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.