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