Real-life reads Widow’s grief: Heroin de­stroyed my fam­ily; We’re NZ’s wildest twins!;

She gave birth the day her hus­band was buried

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - News -

Vivien Leish­man’s last week of preg­nancy was phys­i­cally her eas­i­est and emo­tion­ally her worst.

Un­ex­pect­edly thrown into plan­ning a Fri­day fu­neral after the shock death of her hus­band, the heart­bro­ken Kiwi widow barely moved for six days, sit­ting in her lounge watch­ing peo­ple roll in and out to pay their re­spects, while telling ev­ery­one, “This baby can­not come on Fri­day.”

But baby had other plans and while hun­dreds of mourn­ers gath­ered out­side a Syd­ney church to farewell 35-year-old “gen­tle gi­ant” Richard, Viv was in labour at a nearby hos­pi­tal.

Numb with grief, the first-time mum took some com­fort in the fact her late part­ner prob­a­bly would have found the sit­u­a­tion funny.

“Through each con­trac­tion, I thought Richard would be laugh­ing, ‘My son is up­stag­ing me at my own fu­neral!’” re­calls Viv, whose baby boy Jake was born just after the pro­ceed­ings fin­ished.

News of the birth was an­nounced dur­ing the af­ter­noon tea, where a mas­sive cheer erupted.

“Not many fu­ner­als get that,” she muses.

While the 37-year-old smiles at the mem­ory – and has gone on to build a new life for her and now three­year-old Jake in Tau­ranga – she is still pro­cess­ing the events lead­ing to Richard’s death from an ac­ci­den­tal heroin over­dose.

“When he died, all of our cur­rent friends were com­pletely shocked,” says Viv, a for­mer le­gal sec­re­tary. “But I knew he would never want his cause of death hid­den from any­body.

“Look­ing back, I wish I had tried to ac­knowl­edge his fight with ad­dic­tion more. I didn’t share my con­cerns be­cause it can bring shame and you don’t want friends to think less of them. Richard was a beau­ti­ful, lov­ing hus­band and that didn’t change be­cause of his strug­gles.”

Tear­fully, Viv ad­mits her naivety to un­der­stand­ing the depths of his ad­dic­tion, un­til after his death, where she also dis­cov­ered there were nu­mer­ous helplines she could have rung.

“Many peo­ple were an­gry with him when he died. Like, how could he do drugs when he was about to have a baby? But un­less you un­der­stand the psy­cho­log­i­cal side of ad­dic­tion, it’s re­ally easy to make that judge­ment.”

Viv, who was born in Wells­ford, says it was after Richard im­mi­grated from Scot­land to Aus­tralia as a child that he was bul­lied at school and started do­ing drugs at 13 in an at­tempt to fit in. Train­ing as a chef and work­ing on cruise ships around the world only in­creased his ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

By his mid-20s, though, Richard de­cided to get clean and re­turned to Aus­tralia.

The cou­ple met on­line and prior to their wed­ding in 2014, Richard did a stint work­ing in Cam­bo­dia, where he ran a café for girls who had es­caped

the sex trade and needed a safe place of em­ploy­ment.

“We had planned to re­turn to Cam­bo­dia, but Richard con­tracted a su­per­bug and spent a month in hos­pi­tal, need­ing two surg­eries. Around the same time, I fell preg­nant, so we de­cided we’d stay in Aus­tralia and Richard picked up work as a courier.”

It’s hard for Viv to pin­point when Richard be­gan us­ing heroin again. It was only 10 days be­fore their baby was due when it be­came ob­vi­ous to her.

“We went to a mu­sic gig on the Satur­day night and he slept through the whole thing. We had a rule that I was al­lowed to ask him about drugs at any time. So I con­fronted him af­ter­wards and he was hon­est about us­ing some­thing, just not what. He told me he wanted to be drug-free be­fore the baby came.”

With her par­ents ar­riv­ing

from Auck­land the next morn­ing ahead of the birth, the topic wasn’t brought up again. But four nights later, Viv knew some­thing was wrong when Richard didn’t come home from work or re­spond to her calls.

“We had spo­ken that af­ter­noon about some med­i­cal tests I’d had done that day, and he sounded re­ally upset and stressed about it,” she re­calls. Sadly, that was their last con­ver­sa­tion.

“By 8pm, I was re­ally wor­ried,” Viv re­calls. “Deep down, I knew his ab­sence was some­thing to do with drugs. The po­lice ar­rived and one of the of­fi­cers told me they’d found him de­ceased in a ser­vices­ta­tion toi­let, with a tourni­quet on and a nee­dle nearby.

“I dropped to my knees in dis­be­lief. I knew how much he was look­ing for­ward to be­ing a dad. He just thought he was in­vin­ci­ble.”

In the fol­low­ing weeks, meals were de­liv­ered to Viv ev­ery night and friends set up an on­line fundraiser so she could move back to live with fam­ily in New Zealand.

While she misses her hus­band ter­ri­bly, Viv de­scribes her life as “full of hope” and now works part-time as mu­sic di­rec­tor for her Bay of Plenty church.

“I love be­ing a mum and Jake re­minds me so much of Richard, who was a crazy ad­ven­turer with a very car­ing na­ture. I want him to know that his dad was sim­ply a hum­ble man who was bro­ken.”

Mar­ry­ing in 2012, Viv and Richard were ex­cited to be par­ents. “He wanted to be drug-free be­fore the baby came,” she says.

Viv wants son Jake to know his dad was a good man, “just bro­ken”.

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