I became a widow on the day my daughter became a wife

widowed as daughter became bride

by take-a-break |
Updated on

A letter from my heart

My daughter was getting married, but as we welcomed her husband into the family, would I be saying goodbye to mine? By Carolyn Whittaker, 59

husband died while daughter got married

Dear Roger,

You opened the front door, peered outside and said: ‘Oh no! It’s not you lot again, is it?’

I saw the looks of confusion on the faces of our guests, and approached the doorway, shaking my head.

‘Shut up, Uncle Roger,’ I chastised you.

‘Of course, only joking kids,’ you said, ‘you know your Auntie Carolyn is the boss.’

You beckoned our young nieces and nephews inside.

From the moment I met you, Roger, you were a prankster.

When our nieces and nephews came to stay, you always laughed and joked with them. And you adored having fun with our own children Amy and Chris.

There were no lie-ins on our family holidays because you always got us up early so we could make the most of the days together. We’d spend the day at the beach, then you’d take us out for dinner, making sure we got back to the club house in time for kids’ hour.

Amy and Chris always had a loving father at their side as they grew up into happy adults. And they thought it would always be that way.

In time, Amy met Glen and got engaged.

Amy would say: ‘You’ll walk me down the aisle when I get married, Dad.’

husband died while daughter married

Your eyes would light up as you dreamt of that special father-daughter moment.

Then Amy announced she was expecting her second child.

But, soon after, I began to notice you weren’t yourself, Roger.

When you turned to the side, you looked thinner. And, while reading the paper, or watching TV, you’d gently fall asleep.

Then, while we were on holiday soon after, you had a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop.

I felt scared when I saw the colour drain from your face and took you to hospital where doctors stemmed the bleeding, but only after a struggle.

‘I feel fine though,’ you kept saying.

Back home, you still had your appetite, but I insisted that you go to the doctor for blood tests.

A few hours after you’d had them, the GP surgery called back and said you needed more tests, including one for your bone marrow.

'I feel fine, though'

I came with you to the hospital to get the results and my heart sank when I saw a Macmillan nurse sitting next to the consultant.

‘I’m sorry Mr Whittaker, you have acute myeloid leukaemia,’ the consultant said.

It was a cancer of the white blood cells that progressed quickly and aggressively, and you needed to start treatment immediately.

I struggled to hold back tears as I took it in.

Amy had just given birth to her son, and it should’ve been such a happy time.

You loved being a grandad – you’d tell anyone we met about the newest addition to the family.

‘How will we tell the kids?’ I sobbed.

But you were strong and defiant.

‘We’re going to fight this,’ you vowed, ‘we won’t give up.’

Husband died as daughter married

Amy and Chris were devastated but supportive as you were admitted to hospital the next day.

Over the next few months, I visited you every afternoon, while Amy and Chris came to see you in the evenings.

My heart warmed as you proudly introduced the nurses to your grown-up kids.

You’d say: ‘Amy’s engaged and getting married soon.’

But Amy was worried. She didn’t want to set a wedding date in case it got in the way of your treatment.

‘Getting Dad better is the main thing now,’ she told me.

'Here you are, lad'

However, despite the treatment, you grew more poorly, Roger.

When you started using a wheelchair, I was so upset, I broke down to your Macmillan nurse Sally.

‘We’ll keep going,’ she soothed. ‘Roger will keep fighting.’

No matter how poorly you felt, you never lost your strength and courage.

‘I’ll be back to work soon,’ you’d say, laughing.

But then the consultant told us: ‘The treatment isn’t working. We’ve got to stop.’

It was the most devastating news, but you faced it so bravely.

‘Right,’ you said, ‘then I’m going home for my wedding anniversary.’

It was always an important celebration for us, and the hospital pulled out all the stops and got you home in time for us to be together.

You were exhausted, but you still managed to eat some cake.

After that, we had carers coming in to our home in Todmorden, Lancashire, and you had good and bad days.

One day, you were well enough for me to take you to Blackpool. I pushed your wheelchair along the pier and we stopped for an ice cream.

But even with those good days, we knew you were deteriorating, Roger.

hubby died while daughter married

When Amy and Glen visited one day, she told us: ‘We want to get married while Dad’s still here.’

They asked if we minded them getting married on their upcoming holiday to Cyprus.

Roger, you just gave her a loving smile and said: ‘Go and make me proud.’

Then, you took off your wedding ring and gave it to Glen — the same ring I had slipped on your hand when we’d married 27 years before.

‘Here you are, lad, use this because you won’t have time to get one over there,’ you told Glen.

It was such a lovely thing to do.

‘Are you sure this is OK, Dad?’ Amy asked you.

‘Yes,’ you insisted. ‘I’m fine with it.’

On the day of Amy’s wedding, you were in a lot of pain, but you were so excited that your little girl was tying the knot.

That evening, Amy called us and said: ‘We’re married!’

‘Congratulations! We can’t wait to see you,’ I replied.

husband died while daughter married

You were so excited and proud as Amy explained how the day went. But that night, Roger, you struggled to settle.

Then, as I sat beside you, you drew your last breath.

My loving husband, my best friend in the world, had passed away, at 61.

Chris came over straight away, and we knew we had to call Amy to tell her the news.

‘But it’s her wedding day,’ I sobbed.

Heartbroken, Amy flew back with her son to see you.

None of us could get over the shock of losing you, and you left such a huge hole in our lives. But we vowed to carry you with us, and honour your memory every day.

From then, it was our duty to help others who struggled with leukaemia.

Amy and I started to fundraise for the Leukaemia Care charity.

They had a cute mascot called Bob the blood drop, so I knitted twelve Bob cuddly teddies for children undergoing treatment in the leukaemia ward of Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Amy did a sponsored sky dive in your memory too.

At the event, we sold Bob droplets and other crocheted items and held a raffle. We raised £452 for Leukaemia Care.

husband died while daughter married

I began to knit other Leukaemia Care characters to raise awareness of blood and organ donation, and I even knitted Bob droplets with facemasks on throughout the pandemic.

Last year, I was surprised to learn that Leukaemia Care had nominated me for an achievement award.

I was overjoyed to win, and when I accepted my certificate by video link, I felt so emotional listening to everyone’s kind words about me. I know you would have been proud.

Ever since you passed, our family has honoured your birthday by going to Whitby to visit your favourite chippy.

And on the anniversary of Amy’s wedding, I will always remember how excited you were when you heard that she was married,

Glen wore your wedding ring, until he got one of his own — and then he passed your ring to Chris, who wears it now.

We still miss you every day Roger and we’re grateful for every second we got to spend with you.

I hope my fundraising will continue to help others with leukaemia in your memory.

All my love,


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