Haunted by his last text

I didn’t know that my part­ner’s text would be the last he’d ever send me

Chat - - CONTENTS - Karon Bell, 49, Mil­ton Keynes

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

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