A letter to… My inspirational hubby
For our son’s sake, I had to learn to let my hair down
Oone of my favourite memories is of watching you race our son Jamaal, 4, around the track in his electric car. Thick as thieves, both laughing your heads off.
In those moments, my heart felt fit to burst.
You were such a brilliant dad. Your bond with Jamaal plain for all to see. Until... We were abroad in South Africa, in March 2015.
You had a relentless fever and sore throat, and ended up in hospital.
The doctors suspected meningitis and sepsis – potentially fatal infections.
Antibiotics didn’t work, and that night, I received a call.
‘You need to get here now,’ a nurse said.
Leaving Jamaal asleep at home with our nanny, I rushed to the hospital to see you.
When I arrived there, a doctor told me, ‘I’m so sorry. We couldn’t save your husband.’ You’d passed away at 3am. Just 36 years old. It had all happened so fast. I dreaded breaking the news to Jamaal.
I went home with the heaviest of hearts, waited until 5.30am.
When I couldn’t stand the dread in the pit of my stomach any more, I woke Jamaal up. I held him close. ‘Daddy got really sick,’ I explained, softly. ‘He’s in heaven now.’
Tears flooded down his little face, sobs taking over from his screams.
It tore me up, seeing our son in that state.
All I could do was try to comfort him.
But what could I tell him? A son should never be without his dad.
Losing my mum Fatima when I was just 9, I’d been where Jamaal was now.
It hadn’t been easy, but I’d survived. I had to help Jamaal get through this, too.
I vowed, then and there, that I’d be Mummy and Daddy for him.
But it would be no mean feat.
You were impossible to replace…
So full of spirit, laughter, a sense of mischief. I’d always been the more sensible of the two of us.
For Jamaal’s sake, I had to learn to let my hair down, and have more fun.
So, one afternoon, I drove him to the go-kart track near our home in Essex and helped him into one of the karts.
Ignored the sniggers and the raised eyebrows from the arrogant dads around us. ‘Ready?’ I grinned. Jamaal’s smile was as bright as the sun.
I was the only mum there, cheering from the sidelines.
Soon, the other parents got used to seeing me around.
Didn’t bat an eyelid when I wrangled with motors or got stuck in changing tyres.
The three years since losing you have gone by in a flash.
I’ve had to be strong, despite missing you terribly.
But Jamaal and I are managing as best we can. You’d be so proud of our boy. Now 7, he’s intelligent and outgoing. Just like you were.
You’re still with us in spirit, with the pictures of you all around the house. We talk about you all the time.
I want you to know, Saleem, we’ll never forget you and will adore you always. love, Layla xx Layla Chelimo, 32, Essex
Our baby driver: with his dad, and karting with me