Haunted by his last text
I didn’t know that my partner’s text would be the last he’d ever send me
Glugging a beer at my friend’s barbecue in the summer of 2000, a gorgeous man caught my eye. As we got chatting, I was captivated by his intelligence and charisma.
This handsome and charming stranger was called Mark, and he adored music, gardening, the beach.
And that night, he had everyone hanging off his every word – me included!
I knew right then that I wanted to know more about him.
We started out as friends but soon things escalated.
We began dating, taking trips to the cinema or walks in the park.
It didn’t take long for us to fall madly in love. So what if Mark was 10 years older than me? Our connection was electric.
After two happy years, we moved in together as a couple.
Whether we were partying or pottering in the garden, every day felt blissful.
He was my future, I was so sure of that.
Then, in March 2001, I found I was pregnant.
I’d honestly never felt happier when beautiful Felix was born in December 2001, in our bedroom.
Mark was completely mesmerised by his son.
He had three children from a previous relationship, and he couldn’t wait to share our bundle of joy with them.
‘I wonder if he’ll be like me when he’s older,’ he grinned. ‘Of course he will,’ I smiled. I imagined Felix going to his first music festival with Mark, the three of us at the beach. All this happiness to come. As a family, we made the most of every moment during Felix’s first year.
Camping holidays, seaside trips, Mark even planted a damson tree in the garden.
‘When Felix is older, we’ll fix a swing to the branches,’ he explained to me.
He bought a vintage camera and took endless photos of the three of us.
In November 2002, just a month away from Felix’s first birthday, we went to a friend’s party.
All night, Mark showed off his son, proud of his little family.
As Felix started to become unsettled and tired, I decided it was time to make a move.
‘You stay and enjoy yourself,’ I told Mark.
‘I love you,’ Mark smiled before kissing us both goodbye.
He would stay at his friend’s house for the night.
Later on, Mark and I exchanged some messages. We were both watching Robbie Williams singing on the TV.
And if there’s somebody calling me on, she’s the one, Mark texted me. Typical Mark, so romantic. Good night my darlings, I love you, he messaged again.
I drifted off to sleep...
But the next morning, when I awoke, I was surprised that Mark hadn’t messaged again.
Maybe his battery ran out,
Every day felt blissful. I knew Mark was my future
I reasoned. And when I called him, it went to answerphone.
I tried again.
Every whirr of the ring made me more and more anxious.
Mark had asthma. Maybe he’d had an attack and forgotten his inhaler?
I rang the friend Mark had stayed with.
‘I’m worried, Mark isn’t picking up,’ I said.
His friend explained he’d knocked on Mark’s door before he’d gone to work, but there’d been no response. He assumed he was asleep. But that was hours ago now. ‘I’m coming round,’ I said, and he agreed to meet me there.
In the house, we approached the door of the room where Mark had slept.
It was locked…
As quick as he could, our friend barged down the door. I took a step back.
My whole body began to crumple as I took in the scene before me.
‘No!’ I screamed, holding
little Felix close to me.
Mark’s lifeless body was hanging in the room. ‘Mark, please!’ I begged. But it was too late – the love of my life and the father of my baby was dead.
The next few hours are just a blur. I was in deep, deep shock.
Mark had spoken to me about his mental-health problems in the past.
But, since we’d met, he seemed so happy the whole time – it was easy to forget that he had ever struggled. Sure, he had his low days. But...suicidal?
‘I can’t believe it,’ I sobbed. He’d never, ever said anything to make me think that he’d hurt himself.
Days blurred into weeks. I spent every moment cuddling Felix in despair.
Nestling into Mark’s pillows, inhaling the smell on his clothes, I wondered how
I would ever be able to go on.
‘Why did you leave me?’ I sobbed, distraught and broken.
No note, no explanation.
He’d seemed in such good spirits in our last exchanges.
But I knew that
I had to find my strength for Felix.
As time went on, clues to Mark’s actions emerged.
Mark had taken his life on the 10th anniversary of his mother’s death.
An inquest heard that he’d struggled with mental-health problems.
I just wished he’d spoken to me about how he felt.
But Mark had grown up in a generation of men who were taught that talking about emotions was a sign of weakness.
That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Determined to be both Mum and Dad, I put on a brave face for Felix. Shared photos of Mark with him every day.
And, when the damson tree was big enough, we fixed a swing on its branches.
‘Daddy’s tree,’ Felix smiled.
Just what Mark had dreamt of.
As time went on, I felt strong enough to start socialising once again.
And in December 2005, after trying to regain some of my own life, I had a short relationship and discovered I was unexpectedly pregnant.
Finley was born nine months later. It was tough, but I had no choice but to be the best single mother I could be.
From parents’ evenings to sports days,
I did everything that two parents would do.
When Felix was 9, he started talking about his dad’s death.
With the help of the bereavement charities Harry’s Rainbow and Child Bereavement UK, I was able to explain to him what’d happened to his father.
‘It’s not that he didn’t love you any more, he felt there was no other way out,’ I explained.
Together – in time, and as a family – we started to understand that suicide is not always selfish.
And it’s not always a choice.
It’s a result of underlying mentalhealth problems.
I’m bringing up my boys to know that feeling able to cry and talking about your problems is the way forward. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I wish that Mark had known that. And then perhaps he’d still be with us today.
Feeling able to cry is nothing to be ashamed of
l For help and advice, contact Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide at uksobs.org
The last picture of me with my darling Mark A swing for the boys: Finley on the damson tree
So proud of his little family...
With my lovely lads and my mum