Los­ing Mummy

In a sin­gle mo­ment, our whole lives changed... Mark Wil­cock, 39, South­port

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Strolling along a coun­try road, push­ing our baby Mar­got in her pram, my wife Kather­ine, 35, had never looked more beau­ti­ful.

Dressed sim­ply, in jeans and a blue jacket, it was the hap­pi­ness that shone from her caus­ing that glow.

And I felt ex­actly the same.

‘Mar­got’s go­ing to love splash­ing in the pool,’ Kather­ine grinned at me.

We were fly­ing to Ma­jorca the next day for our very first fam­ily hol­i­day.

We’d spent the morn­ing pack­ing, be­fore Kather­ine went for a nap, feel­ing ex­hausted.

By our af­ter­noon walk she was back to her old self.

Crack­ing jokes, mak­ing me laugh.

Her dark hair shin­ing in the sun.

Kather­ine and I had be­come friends in 2008 when we both worked at Edge Hill Univer­sity.

We fi­nally got to­gether in Jan­uary 2012, and I felt

like the luck­i­est man alive.

She was chatty, kind, could strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with any­one.

‘You’re my stick of dy­na­mite,’ I’d tell her.

With a huge smile, Kather­ine was so much fun to be around. Ob­sessed with Disney, too. I’d even pro­posed in front of Cin­derella’s cas­tle in Disney World, Florida, in Oc­to­ber 2013.

We’d had a beau­ti­ful beach wed­ding in Hawaii in April 2015.

Then, when Mar­got ar­rived in Au­gust 2016, it felt like we had it all.

Kather­ine couldn’t wait to take her to Disney World. ‘But all I re­ally want is for Mar­got to be happy and grow up to be kind,’ she smiled. ‘And not afraid of spi­ders!’ she added with a chuckle. I laughed. Kather­ine was ter­ri­fied of the eight-legged crit­ters. And as we strolled along the coun­try road, we talked about hav­ing an­other baby.

‘We must be mad,’ Kather­ine smiled.

‘As if we aren’t sleep­de­prived enough,’ I laughed. Af­ter an­other half mile, Kather­ine sud­denly stopped. ‘I feel dizzy,’ she frowned. ‘I need to sit down.’ We walked to a nearby pub, found a quiet booth in­side and Kather­ine sat down be­side Mar­got, who was yawn­ing away in her pram.

‘I’ll get you a cold drink,’ I told Kather­ine, walk­ing to the bar. Only, when I walked back over to the booth, Kather­ine was slumped in her seat. Her head was tilted to one side, her eyes closed. ‘Kather­ine!’ I cried in alarm, try­ing to shake her awake.

But wor­ry­ingly her head just wob­bled. Pan­ick­ing, I checked her pulse.

Noth­ing.

‘Help!’ I cried, and a woman ran over, ex­plain­ing she was an off-duty nurse.

Ter­ri­fied, I called an am­bu­lance.

‘She’s not breath­ing,’ the nurse said, as we laid Kather­ine on the floor.

‘Please take my baby away,’ I begged the land­lady.

I couldn’t bear Mar­got to see her mummy like this.

The nurse started CPR be­fore paramedics ar­rived, took over.

Twenty ag­o­nis­ing min­utes passed, and paramedics were still try­ing.

But I just knew.

She was­nÕt go­ing to make it. Mar­got, just 8 months, was go­ing to lose her mummy. I just wailed.

A des­per­ate, feral roar of pure pain, I’d never heard my­self make be­fore.

Kather­ine was rushed to Ain­tree Univer­sity Hospi­tal in Liver­pool and put in an in­duced coma.

Fam­ily vis­ited, helped with Mar­got, while I willed Kather­ine to wake up.

But over the next few days, doc­tors de­liv­ered the news I’d been ex­pect­ing.

Kather­ine had suf­fered a car­diac ar­rest, leav­ing her with un­sus­tain­able brain dam­age.

My vi­brant, beau­ti­ful wife was gone.

Kather­ine was an or­gan donor and part of her liver was given to a baby around Mar­got’s age. It gave me some com­fort. But the pain of los­ing Kather­ine floored me.

For days I sat in the gar­den,

Kather­ine sud­denly stopped. ‘I feel dizzy,’ she frowned

clutch­ing her blue jacket and cud­dling Mar­got.

No one knew what to say. ‘I’m so sorry,’ my mum Jen­nifer, 64, said help­lessly.

But I couldn’t let my­self be paral­ysed by grief.

Sud­denly, I’d be­come a sin­gle fa­ther. A wi­d­ower at 37. Mar­got cried for her mum, didn’t un­der­stand why she sud­denly wasn’t there.

To be hon­est, I didn’t ei­ther.

In the weeks that fol­lowed I thought I had to be a su­per­hero.

I took long-term leave from work, took Mar­got for long walks and to play­group.

Of­ten the only man, I felt out of place.

‘Is your wife at work?’ mums would ask, smil­ing.

‘She died,’ I’d ex­plain. The look of pity on their faces al­most de­stroyed me.

Tests showed Kather­ine had died from sud­den ar­rhyth­mic death syn­drome, caused by

an un­de­tected ge­netic heart con­di­tion.

The doc­tor im­me­di­ately put Mar­got on a wait­ing list to be tested.

Mean­while, I fell into a deep de­pres­sion.

As soon as Mar­got was in bed, I’d sit alone drinking wine and cry­ing.

Reliving all those pre­cious mo­ments I’d had with Kather­ine.

When I did sleep, it was in the spare room, want­ing to spare my­self the agony of wak­ing up and see­ing the empty space be­side me where my wife should be.

I started writ­ing down ev­ery­thing I re­mem­bered Kather­ine say­ing.

About what she wanted for Mar­got, the things she wanted us to do as a fam­ily.

As time slowly passed, it didn’t get any eas­ier. Mar­got kept me go­ing. Only, her first word, first step, seemed bit­ter­sweet without Kather­ine there to share it with

I lived in the mo­ment, took each day at a time. But it was hard.

Six months

af­ter Kather­ine’s death, I went back to work part-time.

Thank­fully, Mar­got was thriv­ing at nurs­ery.

Even­tu­ally, I got help to cope with my grief. Read blogs from other wid­ow­ers and sin­gle dads. Gave up drinking. Slowly, but surely, I came to terms with what hap­pened.

I’m still wait­ing for Mar­got, now 3, to be tested for the heart con­di­tion, although doc­tors have re­as­sured me it’s in­cred­i­bly rare.

But she’s al­ways laugh­ing, loves Disney and de­spite my best ef­forts is ter­ri­fied of spi­ders. Just like her mummy.

And she’s kind too, al­ways of­fer­ing her sweets to friends. Just like Kather­ine wanted. Kather­ine’s favourite say­ing was ‘no rain, no rain­bows’ and we both live by that mantra.

Mar­got’s still too young to ask ques­tions.

But when she does I’ll tell her Mummy was very spe­cial, and didn’t want to leave us. Be­cause she loved her more than any­thing in the world.

Mar­got cried for her mum. She didn’t un­der­stand

Kather­ine and me at Disney World – I pro­posed there

For a short time we had it all…

My beau­ti­ful girl Mar­got keeps me go­ing

Our wed­ding day in Hawaii was so per­fect

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