‘I’m so grate­ful for Mum’s courage’

When He­len Hill’s hus­band was mur­dered just days be­fore Christ­mas she made a heart-rend­ing de­ci­sion that helped save Christ­mas for­ever for their then five-year-old daugh­ter

YOURS (UK) - - Contents - By Ca­role Richard­son

This Christ­mas will mark the end of a cracker of a year for Mol­lie Ir­win-Hill. Af­ter cel­e­brat­ing her 21st birthday with a big bash in April, she went on to pass all her ex­ams and gain a cov­eted univer­sity place to study his­tory in Liver­pool. Since start­ing her de­gree in Septem­ber, she’s been work­ing hard aca­dem­i­cally and at her part-time su­per­mar­ket job.

Mum He­len (45) couldn’t be prouder of her only daugh­ter and, like Mol­lie, is look­ing for­ward to a re­lax­ing fam­ily Christ­mas at their home in Hale Vil­lage, Mersey­side. As usual they’ll tuck into tur­key and all the trim­mings, play Mo­nop­oly and watch their favourite fes­tive film, ‘It’s A Won­der­ful Life.’ On one of their laps will prob­a­bly be Bai­ley, their beloved pet dog, wear­ing her Christ­mas jumper.

‘I don’t know how my mum did it but I am so grate­ful to her. I think my dad would be as proud of her as I am’

“I’ve al­ways loved Christ­mas and have so many lovely, quite mag­i­cal, mem­o­ries of it – all thanks to Mum,” says Mol­lie.

“One year we spent it in Aus­tria and there was snow ev­ery­where. It was like a scene on a Christ­mas card! We even had a sleigh ride.”

The fes­tive sea­son could so eas­ily have been a time of dread and it’s only be­cause of her mum’s ul­ti­mate Christ­mas sac­ri­fice, when Mol­lie was just five, that she can en­joy the fes­tiv­i­ties to­day.

He­len’s hus­band, David Ir­win, was mur­dered on De­cem­ber 23, 2002, aged just 30. It was on leav­ing hos­pi­tal af­ter his life sup­port ma­chine had been switched off, that He­len made the heart­break­ing de­ci­sion to push her own raw grief aside and some­how get through that Christ­mas with­out telling Mol­lie, then five-years-old, her beloved Daddy was dead. “As a fam­ily,

we’d al­ways made such a big deal about Christ­mas and I re­mem­ber think­ing that if Mol­lie sees it as a bad time now, it will ruin Christ­mas for the rest of her life. She was so young with hope­fully a whole life­time of Christ­mases be­fore her and I re­ally didn’t want that to hap­pen,” re­calls He­len, who has since re­mar­ried.

So when the only white lie her friends were telling their small chil­dren was Santa would be com­ing down the chim­ney, He­len wiped her tears, bravely put on a smile and went home to give Mol­lie the hap­pi­est Christ­mas she could man­age.

“I just told Mol­lie Daddy had bumped his head and had to stay in hos­pi­tal,” she re­calls.

So when Mol­lie woke up at 7am on Christ­mas morn­ing, none of the ex­cite­ment of open­ing all the sur­prise

‘On Boxing Day I ex­plained that the an­gels had taken Daddy to heaven to make him bet­ter be­cause the doc­tors and nurses hadn’t been able to’

pre­sents they had so thought­fully bought and wrapped to­gether for her was spoilt.

“I can re­mem­ber that Christ­mas quite vividly. We spent it at my nan’s house and I got all the pre­sents I wanted, in­clud­ing a bike. I was spoilt rot­ten!” says Mol­lie.

Even when she re­peat­edly asked through­out the day, ‘When is Daddy com­ing home?’ He­len didn’t break down. Chok­ing back her tears, she replied: ‘I don’t know; we’ll just have to see how he is Mol­lie.’

“I don’t re­mem­ber Mum cry­ing in front of me but I can re­mem­ber her seem­ing sub­dued and that my nan nearly started cry­ing and had to walk away. But I still didn’t put two and two to­gether.

When you’re that young you don’t ques­tion what your par­ents say,” adds Mol­lie. “Look­ing back, I don’t know how I did it,” ad­mits He­len. “It was the hard­est thing I’ve ever had to do. It was all so sur­real but Mol­lie was my pri­or­ity. I think I just switched into pro­tec­tive mode and went through the mo­tions of Christ­mas. I’m sure any mother would have done the same in my shoes.”

But by Boxing Day, she knew she had to tell her lit­tle girl the truth – or at least half of it.

“When she woke up, I ex­plained that the an­gels had taken Daddy to heaven to make him bet­ter be­cause the doc­tors and nurses hadn’t been able to. I’ll never for­get the look on her lit­tle face when she said, ‘so I will never see Daddy again…’”

Though she was sad, He­len’s tim­ing has meant that Christ­mas wasn’t ru­ined for­ever for her daugh­ter, though He­len ad­mits that the fol­low­ing year when Mol­lie asked, af­ter they dec­o­rated the tree to­gether, “Who is go­ing to lift me up and put the star on?” (some­thing her Daddy al­ways did) she broke down in tears.

“I couldn’t help my­self,” she re­calls. Nev­er­the­less, her orig­i­nal sac­ri­fice had al­ready made a dif­fer­ence and they en­joyed that Christ­mas and many more to­gether since.

“I don’t know how she did it but I am so grate­ful to Mum for do­ing what she did oth­er­wise I think Christ­mas would be tainted for me,” adds Mol­lie. “As it is, we get our sad­ness out of the way on Dad’s an­niver­sary, De­cem­ber 23, when we al­ways light a can­dle for him and go to his grave. Then we move on and en­joy Christ­mas. I think my dad would be as proud of my mum as I am.”

Mum He­len and Mol­lie pic­tured to­day with their pet dog Bai­ley

Pre­cious mo­ments: Proud dad David lov­ingly holds new baby Mol­lie; the happy fam­ily of three and tod­dler Mol­lie en­joy­ing time with dad

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