Seven Bells and a C-Cup.

Were there always so many bras and little tops in department stores? I can’t say I’d ever noticed before. Sports bras, padded bras, and skimpy cleavage-flashing numbers with glittery fabric. A few weeks ago, I might have walked up to them and fondled the material and checked the price tag before thinking better of it and walking away. But they’re on every fucking rail as I wander aimlessly through the shops, trying to think what last bits we need for our holiday. Since I’m soon going to be having my left tit hacked off, there’s not a lot of point in buying something to flaunt what I’ve got, when fairly soon I won’t have it anyway.

Then, I see t-shirts my husband might have worn. Shopping trips were always fairly simple for him and me, on the rare occasions we did them. “Do I like this?” he’d ask, and then shrug, and completely trust my judgement when I said yes or no. He couldn’t be arsed arguing, but he always looked pretty good to me (as long as, like most husbands, he didn’t attempt to dress himself from head to toe too often.)

I want him to hold my hand as we browse the clothes rails in the store. To cry with me in front of all the bras, and to tell me he doesn’t care how much of me they take away – that he loves me for me, not for my great pair of tits (although he might still admit to them being a bonus.) I want him to tell me that it’ll all be OK, and to say he wasn’t really keen on those lacy bras anyway. I want him to ask me if I really need another jolly fucking scarf because the peg in the bedroom is full of them, and to roll his eyes and say that the one I’ve picked out is identical to the 93 others I’ve already got. It isn’t, of course. He never did understand scarves. I’d have ignored him and bought it anyway, if he’d been here with me, staring at all the scarves and the dresses and the bras. But he isn’t, because he’s dead.

In some ways, I’ve forgotten to grieve for my husband in the days since my diagnosis, because my head is just too full of breadwinner money worries, boy timetables, dog walking schedules, questions on how the fuck I’m going to break this news to everyone, and visions of prosthetics awkwardly balancing inside a sturdy bra. It’s just the same as it was when my husband was diagnosed the first time around, and we didn’t sleep for weeks, but all I could think about was how much time I’d need to master his recipe for the world’s most epic roast potatoes before he had to leave us. He knew I’d manage it. Not rocket science, he said. (The roast potatoes, that is. None of us were really expecting me to be having to juggle widowhood and more bloody cancer all at the same time just two and a half years later.)

I miss my husband every second of every day, but I’m sure he won’t want me to join him yet, wherever he is. He knows I’ve got two important jobs to do, and I promised I wouldn’t let him down. Those important jobs are currently beating the living crap out of each other in the sitting room over something to do with the Xbox. Will those little boys suddenly treasure me, and each other, or will they fall apart when they hear the news? Will their anger eat away at them, or at their friendships, because they can’t safely take it out on the only person left who understands and loves them unconditionally? Will they try to look after me and help us all to work through this as a family, or will they resent yet more effing cancer and a mum at half measure? Will that important job of mine become impossible because cancer has killed their Daddy and knocked seven bells and a C Cup out of their Mummy as well? Only time will tell. But time is precious. At the very least, whatever happens, we still have plenty of that.

Love Fanny x

Remaining Buoyant.

I walked into the funny little side room where they’d ushered my friend and me, with the inevitable flowery wallpaper border in an awkward shade of peach, and the strategically placed box of tissues. Different hospital, but the same sort of set-up as it had been last year when they told my husband he was dying. They’re all as cheerless as each other, these rooms. The fact that someone’s tried to jolly them up with imitation flowers makes them all the more depressing, but that’s not the fault of the two ladies who were sitting there in their lanyards, smiling weakly – they’re healthcare professionals, not interior designers, for fuck’s sake. I wondered why there really needed to be two of them for something so routine.

I didn’t know if I should start the conversation with a general grumble about what a waste of NHS resources it is to bring in every bloody patient to discuss their results when a quick chat on the phone should have been enough to say that everything’s fine, but I thought I’d leave that bit for afterwards. I shook my head and apologised for wasting their time, but admitted to being just a little bit paranoid because my husband had died four months ago from cancer. I haven’t actually really accepted that he even had cancer, let alone died from it, I said. Silly, really, but it’s always best to get stuff checked out, I suppose. The pressure’s on to survive, because without me, our kids don’t have anyone left.

Sit down, they said.

So, to backtrack, my husband is dead, our kids are soon starting high school, I’m trying to single-handedly build an empire with the remaining crumbs of our once-thriving business, cook meals, walk the sodding dog, drive the kids to footy, drama and youth club, and we’re about to go on a summer holiday where we finally – for once – forget about cancer (but never Dad,) and start building a new life again, just the three of us.

I’m so excited about this holiday that yesterday I even splashed out on four new bikinis. Unheard of. I’ve had the same three bikinis for the last ten years.

Nobody in my family has ever had cancer, I told the boys the other day when the subject came up again. They’ve been worried for a while that they’ll somehow lose me, too. I don’t speed – ever, I told them. I don’t take unnecessary risks any more. I don’t walk down dark alleyways at night. I drink more wine than I probably ought to, but that’s about it. Who doesn’t? But I’m not going to die, lads. Don’t worry. I’m in rude bloody health, me.

It was the school holidays and I had nobody to watch the boys, so I dragged them along to my appointment and lied and told them I had to go in for a routine test that all ladies over 35 have to have, just to keep our boobies safe, and grinned and smiled and laughed through gritted teeth behind the curtain as they played on their iPads and I had six chunks of my left tit smeared into a Petri dish. Dad’s family is riddled with cancer, I said, but my side – no way. I didn’t want to worry them, or myself. I just knew I had to put my mind at rest and hear that these silly little lumps were as insignificant as I’d imagined.

But they’re not. My friend held my hand as my world fell apart again, and the nice ladies in lanyards told me that I have two tumours in my left breast, which is pretty bloody high achieving of me, actually. They’re still fairly small, and it seems that I did the right thing to alert my GP friend who turned up for a bottle of wine and a grope of my tits just weeks after my husband’s funeral. She wasn’t too concerned, but as a matter of course said she’d send me down to the Breast Unit. I didn’t even know there was such a place. My hubby would have liked to have had the opportunity to accompany me there, I thought.

I shook my head when the nurse asked if I qualified for free prescriptions, and she smiled and said “you do now,” while thrusting a form into my hand with the box I am a cancer patient already ticked.

I have leaflets, and scan appointments, and two booklets with cartoon superheroes fighting bad cartoon cancer cells to give to the boys (one each, so they don’t need to squabble over them.) I don’t yet completely know what the treatment will be. But I do know that I’ll need a mastectomy, and with that it’s curable. I think the timing is shit and my heart is ripped to shreds for our growing boys who have known nothing but a parent with cancer since they were 8 years old and need a fucking break. But, I also know that my husband was given a 16% chance of surviving beyond two years. Conversely, I’ve got about a 16% chance of dying, as long as we act fairly quickly. He fought for two years and several rounds of chemo to stave the fucker off. I know, therefore, that I am lucky, that this is but a brief blip, and that I owe it to him to take those odds, to use them to my advantage, and to not complain. Not too much, anyway. Two years ago, we would have given anything at all for the odds that I find myself blessed with, and it could be so much worse for me right now. Still, so much of me wishes that my husband could be here to hold my hand through this, as I held his, and another part of me is glad that he doesn’t have to, because the news would have crucified him anyway, not least because he’d always admired what he described as my cracking set of baps. It’s always harder for the carer, he said. Well, that’s OK, because mine’s already dead.

This coming holiday, I’m going to wear the fuck out of those four bikinis.  Soon, I’ll have half the number of buoyancy aids that I had before, but I’m damn well going to keep afloat. I’m all that our boys have left to cling on to.

Love Fanny x


Small, but perfectly formed. And rising back to the surface… eventually.

I wrote this blog on 12th August 2016, the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and almost four months after my husband had died from oesophageal cancer. Now that we’re back from our holiday and I’ve told the boys, I can publish this, as they now know the full situation. They are, of course, upset, but understand that it’s completely curable, that my treatment will be nowhere near as gruelling or as long as my husband’s, and that I still plan to keep working, just as he did. With the help of some truly wonderful friends and family who will drag us over these next few hurdles, we remain very lucky indeed.

Life Ensurance.

A few years ago, I read on Facebook that a woman named Desreen – a beautiful woman, though that’s probably irrelevant – had been knocked over and killed after leaving my auntie’s brother’s house. Her two-year-old son was with her, along with her husband. It’s a loose connection, but because I know and love someone who’d met her personally, I’ve read her husband’s Life As A Widower blog with interest and sympathy, never imagining that one day I’d be widowed too. Although my husband died in much less tragic circumstances, the end result is the same. A dead spouse. A new widow. A child or two to bring up alone, alongside the grief. A whole load of shit to shovel through the tears. I could say the same things to Ben Brooks-Dutton as people say to me. You’re brave. You’re amazing. I don’t know how you do it. And all the while, no doubt, like me, he’ll be grateful for the support, glad that he can release some of the pressure in his head by pouring words onto a page, and he’ll think, but I don’t really have any other choice.

One of Mr Brooks-Dutton’s articles resonated me with me recently, but probably not for the reasons he’d intended it to. It wasn’t long after my husband had died, and I saw that one of his blogs had been shared by WAY – a charity I’d joined fairly early on, for moral support. I was drowning under a pile of probate, trying to work out what the fuck I needed to do with the mortgage and the business, making spreadsheets of what I had to earn in order to survive, and sorting out which car I could afford to keep and which I’d have to sell. My husband had made it all pretty easy – he didn’t really have any savings (apart from the ISA we’d half-heartedly been stashing bits of cash into, in a vague attempt to reduce the mortgage capital when the time came) but he’d written a will and a letter of wishes, and things were as straightforward as they could have been. Nonetheless, it was still a nightmare for a grieving simpleton like me, who’s never really been all that interested in money or investments. We once thought we’d be clever, and invested my husband’s rather pitiful pension with a stockbroker. It was 2008. I probably don’t need to tell you the rest. In my life, I’ve gone from ordinary, to homeless, to comparatively rich, but the amount of cash in my pocket has never really determined how I feel about being me. I’d be lying if I said that losing the house doesn’t concern me, though, especially when we’ve already lost the one thing that money can’t buy. But it’s not everything, because we’ve already lost the one thing that money can’t buy.

Ben Brooks-Dutton had written about the concept of Love Insurance – and why, if you love your family, it’s important to take out an insurance policy to look after them in death as well as in life, as we don’t ever know what’s around the corner. (Actually, even when we’ve known what’s around the corner for two years, we don’t really know at all. We simply turn around and walk in the other direction, until we hit the final wall and it tears us to pieces anyway.)

I totally understand his point. When I was 26 and had just given birth to twins, we took out a policy which would see the mortgage paid off and my husband and boys looked after, should anything happen to me. My husband was older than me, you see. 25 years older (but not in his head.) Taking out insurance in your twenties is cheap, affordable, and something I’d encourage everyone to do as a matter of course. It’s just one of those essential life expenses, even if you don’t yet have a family.

We investigated a joint policy, and baulked (or laughed – I can’t quite remember) when they told us it would cost around £500 per month for a 52-year-old ex-smoker with cancer running through the heart of his family. He did have a few policies anyway, bought to pay off old mortgages from years ago, but they had been due to run out before too long, and having already had two divorces under his belt, his finances had never been quite straight. My husband had been a practically professional smoker for about 30 years. A joint cigarette break on the fire escape at work had brought us together in the first place, so we owed our entire relationship to Marlboro Lights, even though we’d both quit when the boys were on their way.

That £500 per month didn’t seem affordable at the time, and probably wasn’t. We shopped around, couldn’t find it cheaper, and decided not to bother.

My husband was the greatest Fuck-It Merchant on the planet. He wasn’t completely reckless or a total spendthrift (hello, we had an ISA!) but money burned a hole in his pocket. He enjoyed what he had, and loved to share it about. His inherent generosity towards the people he loved was one of the many things I found attractive about him. He never planned to retire, and if he had, at 25 years his junior I’d have been his pension anyway. We’d already decided that we didn’t like the local private school anywhere near as much as we liked the local state school (frankly, we were both a bit too left-wing to seriously consider it,) and justified every holiday with the fact that we would all learn more from seeing the world at first hand than our little boys would, stuck inside an expensive classroom.

That £500 per month (added to the theoretical thousands we were saving on school fees) paid for us to take our little boys all over the world – to the Pyramids of Giza, to tree houses in the national parks of South Africa, via Glastonbury Festival, the Acropolis of Athens, and sleeper trains through Thailand (that one almost ended in divorce.) Our kids have bartered for fake footy kits in Turkey, kayaked along the shores of Lake Garda, swum with turtles in Barbados, and picked out street jewellery in Tunisia. We’ve also done Disneyland at Christmas – I mean, come on. It can’t all be as wholesome as fuck. Our boys have no problem navigating an airport, but show them a bus and they probably won’t even know which side of the road to stand on to catch the bloody thing, but everything in time.

I’m glad that, when he died, I had hundreds of photographs of my husband in places all over the world, standing with his boys. They are smiling, and cuddling, and full of life. Even when he was dying. Especially when he was dying. The pride and love and happiness in that man’s face shines through, as it does in his children’s. I’m glad that we couldn’t choose which single memory summed him up the best, and in the end went for a montage of photographs to use in the order of service at his funeral.

Now that I’m the sole breadwinner, I won’t be stupid with money. I was always the more sensible one, anyway. Without a cushion, it’ll be a bumpy ride, but if those boys aren’t incentive enough to keep our business running now that it’s spluttering along at half the power, I don’t know what is. What would I do if we’d taken out that life insurance and now I didn’t have to work? Sit in our paid-for house and remember all those amazing times when we’d stayed at home, working? Meet friends for coffee? My friends all work full-time anyway. I need a push, and I’ve bloody well got it. I won’t fail. I can’t afford to.

Our age gap is unusual, and every family must do what they need to. I recognise that the sudden death of a young woman like Desreen is completely different from the expected death of a near-retired man, except perhaps inside the heads of the young kids they leave behind. Many young widowed parents and their children can only live as full a life as possible, because they’d taken out cover, and I’m glad Desreen was able to give her family that unwanted but nonetheless useful gift.

We chose life ensurance over life insurance. My husband hasn’t left us destitute – he’s left us with skills, with options, and with few regrets – except for the things we never got around to doing. He hasn’t left our kids with piles of money. He’s left them with the world on a plate, and with enough deposits in their memory banks to make them millionaires.

Love Fanny x


Dean Friedman, Domino’s, and Death.

People say “I just CAN’T imagine.” A lot. They say it a lot. I think I’m quite good at hiding what I’m thinking (which is WELL FUCKING TRY) with a shrug and a smile, and a “that’s OK. I hope you never have to,” because I really do. When they inevitably stroke my left arm in solidarity (it’s always the left one,) I let them, even though I don’t really know if I’m supposed to stroke theirs back, because I’m awkward and British, and I’m not entirely sure what stroking my arm will do to aid my husband’s return to life anyway. But it probably makes them feel better, and I’m OK with that. I’m sure I’d do the same if the tables were turned. What in the name of fuck DO you say?

People are really nice. I know they can’t imagine, because I can’t either, and none of this is quite how I thought it would be. It still isn’t.

Following any shitty medical diagnosis, people often describe a “new normal.” It’s not the life we’d planned, but eventually you get to grips with the chemo regimes or hospital appointments or where the best coffee is within a stone’s throw of the treatment centre (don’t go to the canteen – it’s shit,) and you build a new routine around it, or in our case, our entire working week. I remember, when my husband was first diagnosed (when it was curable – OH no it wasn’t!) imagining him about to spend months on end as an in-patient, shrivelled up and bald, when in reality – for the first three cycles at least – life was relatively normal except for the odd bit of retching into a bowl and a Number One on top. We went places, did stuff, and lived our lives. And he carried on working. Self-employed and uninsured, you see.

The difficulty ramped up, slowly but steadily. After the oesophagogastrectomy (or, “the op,” which is less of a mouthful,) he needed more careful handling, but life carried on and the boys got used to seeing him replace his jejunostomy feed at breakfast while they filled their cereal bowls. The feeding tube came out. He went back on chemo. The retching became worse, and he went bald again. He didn’t sleep at night and nor did I, but we carried on. Things got shittier, but we kept going. We kept working. We kept bringing up our kids, and loving each other, and pissing each other off. We kept going for two years, until he stopped.

When my husband was given two weeks to live, he was relieved. He’d thought he had hours. I’d been called in to the hospital urgently, late on a Friday afternoon to “discuss his scan,” and was told that the doctor would stay behind to see me. I asked if I should bring the children, and they said not yet. That was a fairly hefty clue that something was amiss, although it was April Fools’ Day, so there was a glimmer of hope. My husband held my hand. He wiped my tears, and asked me to promise just two things. He wanted to die at home, and he asked me not to let him die alone. I gave him my word.

He then went on to say that a Bag for Life would probably be an unwise investment at that point.

The few days after he came home from hospital, and before he’d lost his mind, we quickly shut down our business. He wouldn’t rest until I’d contacted all our clients with his “permanent non-availability”, as he called it, and sent the invoices out. The fucking invoices. Who gave a shit? He did. He needed to know we could afford to take some time off, so he could relax. And die. It felt as if we were about to go on holiday. In fact, by then, we were on holiday. We were at home, but not working. We ignored the phone. It was, somehow, lovely. We chatted. We held hands. Friends and relatives came over, but knew not to stay too long. He asked for a sign on the front door asking for visitors by appointment only, because the constant ringing of the doorbell was driving him mad, although some people ignored it anyway. I kept that fucker up for weeks after he’d passed. Some people still ignored it.

The day he died, I don’t think I knew he was going to. I don’t honestly think I ever thought he would. A friend had stayed in the spare room so I wouldn’t be alone and frightened on my makeshift bed beside my husband if he started to die in the night. He said good morning to her and asked after her husband, his friend. I don’t know what he said after that, but it was idle, mixed-up chitchat. There were no meaningful last words. He probably vaguely asked for a cuppa. He slept. The hospice came (for the first time, after a fortnight of chasing) to give him some nursing care, and a wash and a fresh t-shirt. They looked after him; he was clean and moisturised, and his teeth were brushed. I suppose, in hindsight, he was ready. I texted the vicar to say that I was worried he had barely moved and didn’t seem well, but didn’t hear back and thought nothing of it. I was too busy sitting by his side and listening to his iPod on shuffle (or “Dad FM” as he preferred to call it) and skipping past any songs he wasn’t keen on. No point in wasting whatever time he had left being forced to listen to shit music.

The boys came home from school; they popped in to say hello, saw Dad was asleep, and wandered back over the road to play with their friend. My husband’s best mate, our GP, called in after surgery to see how things were, as he always did, and said gently that he thought today may be my husband’s last. I put the kettle on and chose not to believe him. He offered to stay the night, but Marie Curie were supposed to be coming to night-sit for the first time, and I thought they could damn well do their bit at last. We returned to the sitting room where my husband was sleeping. His head had fallen to one side and his skin was grey. I thought he’d died, and was devastated that I’d broken the one last promise I’d been determined to keep – that he wouldn’t die alone.

Then, he breathed. I looked up to see our friend in tears, my husband still alive, and our boys out of the house. I didn’t know how long we could expect the breathing to keep going, but I managed to ring the boys and summon them back quickly. None of us really knew what to do, so it was a blessing to have our friend there (who had seen hundreds of deaths but never his best friend’s) as we all made our promises to my hubby and told him how loved he was. One of the boys became agitated about the music still playing on the iPod, and said it was disrespectful. I told him that Daddy loved music and would probably be enjoying listening to it. In fact, it was Dean Friedman’s Lucky Stars. I made a mental note to remember. I wondered if that was an appropriate song for his life to fade out on, but he did like Dean Friedman. He’d seen him play at the Edinburgh Festival a couple of years ago, and the audience had all sung the girl’s part. I remember him telling me. He’d had a great time. Yes. OK, Lucky Stars was a good song, and I supposed the title was apt. Despite everything, he had been very lucky in many ways, I thought, but then an internal monologue of panic began:

It isn’t really about being lucky at all, though, is it? Isn’t it about a breakup? Not sure. It’s a bit inappropriate if it is. Oh, bollocks. Perhaps I should listen more carefully to the words, just in case. Shame it’s not Ariel. He loves Ariel. Maybe I should see if I can quickly find it. Shit, it’s still on shuffle. 8,493 songs, and I haven’t a clue how to use Search on this bastard thing. Does this one end or fade? Thank fuck – yes, it ends. Don’t want to play “fade out roulette” at this fairly critical point in all our lives.

It ended. I quickly pressed Stop, in case Agadoo came on, or the theme tune from Blockbusters. My hands were shaking. Then, we sort of waited. For a very long time – half an hour or more. We weren’t counting. He kept breathing. We kept talking, and promising, and wishing. The breaths came far less frequently. Then, he stopped.

Our boys were brilliant. They kissed their Daddy, and stroked his face, even after he’d died. One went to our home office and came back with my husband’s business card which he placed in his grey, waxy hand. I don’t really know why. He just did what he had to do. My husband was useless at giving out business cards – perhaps that’s why there were so many left. His best friend organised the practical things such as telephoning the undertaker, and letting Marie Curie know not to bother coming after all. He asked a colleague to come and certify the death – something he’d done a hundred times before for other people, but he couldn’t bring himself to do so for his best friend of over 30 years. I don’t know what certifying a death involves, but I’m guessing lifting eyelids and some such, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do that either. My husband had the most beautiful piercing blue eyes that winked and danced, and we loved them, but they would be glassy and empty by now, and we all knew it.

As had been planned the day before, some dear friends came round to take the boys to drama at 6pm, and we realised that time had stood still. The boys were holding their Daddy’s hand at the time we should have been putting the dinner in the oven. Our littlest twin asked if they could have the night off drama and order a Domino’s, and it didn’t seem a lot to ask for a ten year old kid who’d just come back from school to see his beloved father pass away. There were pizza menus and doctors and telephone numbers for undertakers being banded about, and then the vicar turned up full of apologies but he’d been in Wigan all day and only just seen my text message. He was so sorry. He and my husband were friends. He blessed his body and we said a prayer together, even though by then I knew that my husband had long since left the room, and so did he.

The undertakers came, and quietly began to do what they needed to do. I left the room, and started to make phone calls to relatives. There was a list of people in a vague order of importance, and two hungry children, and I needed to keep the conversations short as there were another twenty people yet to ring, but everyone needed a good cry and I didn’t have the heart to rush them. Even after several calls, I’d failed to master the technique. Words like “peaceful” and “blessing” were used as the doorbell kept ringing and the hallway turned into Piccadilly Circus with doctors and undertakers and small boys and friends. I laid the kitchen table. Someone poured me a glass of wine, I think. As my husband was being loaded into the back of the private ambulance, the Domino’s guy crossed paths with him on the driveway. We’d swapped the love of our lives for a large Margarita and a Veggie Volcano.

As the jalapeños burned my cardboard tongue, I walked into the sitting room and stripped my husband’s empty bed. I found his discarded business card on the carpet. I thought, don’t you know who he is?  I loaded the washing machine, just as I always did, several times a day. Life carried on for the rest of us, as it always does, but in a completely new direction. Even now, we’re still picking our way through whatever our new “new normal” is. The only thing that isn’t “normal” is no longer having him here by our side.

Love Fanny x



Ariel, which I found in his record collection, along with Lydia. But not Lucky Stars.

The Life and Soul of the Party.

Hey, you!

Yes – you. With the husband.

I can see you sitting there, either with him, or maybe with other friends as he props up the bar with a merry band of dads. I can see your son come up to you and pester you for money for a fizzy drink, and watch as you direct him over to his dad because your handbag is empty, or because you’re deep in conversation with another of the wives, or because he’s just mildly pissing you off anyway because he’s a ghastly, sweaty, overexcited, pre-teen shitbag more interested in sliding along the grass outside than impressing the girls. Or because your daughter is taking her role on the dance floor far too seriously, and you’re quietly thinking to yourself (having spent the first part of this Godforsaken evening watching her apply glitter to her face and being forced to plait her hair,) to calm the fuck down and to stop obsessively doing every bloody dance move because you’re eleven for Christ’s sake and not about to try to get laid. It’s the Year 6 Leavers’ Party at the local golf club, not the bastard Hacienda. And anyway, all the boys are outside and only interested in getting mud on their knees.

You’re being really kind to me, as you always are. You were always happy to offer help while my husband was ill, and I guess I probably owe you. But these days I’m a bit aloof. No longer one of the MILFs. You say hello, and a few people shuffle their chairs along so I can sit down. You’re too polite to say that my make up is smudged, even though one of you saw me in the car having dropped off my own two excited, sweaty, pre-pubescent boys, and seeing that I didn’t follow them in straight away, peered through the window to see my head against the steering wheel, stifling a mental breakdown. Nobody tells anyone else that this happened, of course. Not in front of me, anyway. We all make the right noises about how time passes so quickly and how we never thought the day would come that they’d be leaving primary school. Is yours ready? we ask. Oh, yes! we agree. Little shits, aren’t they? Need a new challenge. Nice kids really, though. It’s been a lovely class.

And then your husband waves at you from the bar and asks you what you want to drink. Oh! And me, too. Yes, I’d love a drink, thanks. I’m getting properly shitfaced tonight, I think to myself.

It’s not your fault, you woman with the husband. He’s lovely, but he wouldn’t have been my type. My husband was fascinating. He never wore a suit. It made him look, and feel, like a twat. He would never have been comfortable in a safe, sensible job like your husband’s, but always respected your husband’s right to his, and liked him very much. Mine was, like your husband, a total pain in the arse at times. But, unlike yours, mine is dead.

He’s not here to see his beloved boys finish primary school. He was there at every open day, assembly, Christmas concert – in fact, if you could gain health and longevity from attending every bastard school event, he’d have outlived the lot of us. Your husband did his best but was often at work selling stuff, or accounting things, or quantity surveying, or whatever it is that he does, but mine was there every damn time. And now he’s not. And it isn’t bloody fair. Not that I wish it was your husband who’d died. Of course I don’t.

Like your marriage, ours had its ups and downs. Like yours, my husband also left his wet towels on the bed, never cleared away his coffee cups, and had an opinion on every fucking thing (whether it had been asked for or not.) He never shut up, or got off Facebook, and he died having apparently never discovered where we keep the Hoover. We didn’t argue often, but when we did it was monumental and one of us would slam the door with a dramatic flourish, although it never stayed shut for long. In fourteen years, we had three nights apart (once, I even booked a room at a Travelodge three miles down the road, because I was pregnant and hormonal, and he was a cunt. But then, by morning – and quite miraculously – he wasn’t.)

We even had a spell of marriage counselling when the boys were toddlers, because we were too pissed off and knackered to go near each other for months. The ethnic skirted counsellor lady was so worthy and unctuous that we almost died of boredom in the session, took the piss out of her in the car all the way home, got into bed, and bonked each other’s brains out. Our marriage was saved that day, but in the most unorthodox way, and we were proud of how hard we’d fought at times to get ourselves back on track. We always did. It was worth fighting for. We loved each other.

I suppose, like yours, ours was just a normal marriage, with its highs and lows, and, like yours, he was just a normal bloke, with all the revolting traits that blokes have – but balanced by fairness, kindness, and a wicked sense of humour to appease me when he needed to.

Before he died, my husband told me that he knew he was leaving his treasured boys in my very capable hands. I wonder if he is watching over us and shaking his celestial head as one kid screams in despair and the other kid holds us hostage in the porch, and if he realises he’s left too soon but it’s a bit fucking late now because he’s already been cremated. And anyway, all this shit has only started since he’s died. I wonder – no, assume – that you’re judging me too. That you think you know how hard it is to be a single mum, because you’ve got friends who are on their own, or because you’ve been there yourself, before your lovely new husband came along. Yes, I’m very bloody single. No, I don’t want a replacement model. My husband’s departure is a bit fucking permanent. He doesn’t pop back at weekends to feed them inappropriate numbers of sweets, or take them to the park while I go for lunch and bitch about what an arse he is. We didn’t choose this. As the boys are busy trying to twat each other over the head, I wonder why my husband doesn’t intervene right now, like he always eventually did. Why he can’t just show me what to do. Tip a whole sky full of white feathers over the boys, for fuck’s sake, if only so they can’t do each other any more harm. He always had all the answers, and just as we need them the most, he’s gone.

So, if you see me over the next few weeks as our kids join in with all the parties and meals and concerts which herald the end of their time at primary school, and you wonder if I’m being a bit monosyllabic (when for years I’d have been the life and soul of any PTA party,) just remember, it’s not me. It’s you. My feelings towards you transcend anger or jealousy, but I wouldn’t wish any of this on my worst enemy, and certainly not on you. Seven years ago, we all began a journey together. For reasons I simply can’t fathom, you and your kids have the privilege of moving on with the one travelling companion my boys and I so desperately wish we had, too.

Love Fanny x


First DayFirst Day 2

My Son, The Asshole.

My son, who I love beyond all measure, is being a bit of an asshole. He’s so much like I was as a child – a loud, articulate, attention-seeker extraordinaire, unable to quite know when to stop. Unlike me as a child, he has the added bonus feature of having spent the last two years watching his Daddy die, slowly, right in front of his eyes.

Until D-Day, the dickhead qualities were always visible, but in a fairly endearing way. People would be bowled over by his confidence around adults, and his engaging personality. What he lacked in his twin brother’s fierce academic prowess, he made up for in articulate expression, and we’d always had him marked out as a leader in whichever field he chose to pursue. He was also, most importantly, fairly kind (except to his brother, obviously.) Over the last couple of years, we’d noticed the signs of anger bubbling up inside him, and had had the occasional call from other parents whose child had been on the receiving end of some outburst or other, but it was never that big a deal. People knew me well enough to tell me straight, and never expected anything other than my full attention and an apology, if necessary, from my son. They also knew that the poor kid had a lot to deal with right now, and that all this was a bit out of character. I do not breed Perfect Peters. We deliberately raised our kids to have spirit, to ask questions, and to stand up for themselves (verbally, not violently,) and on the whole I think we had been doing a fairly good job in the face of some monumental challenges, not to mention running a business and working around several 40-mile round trips to the cancer hospital every sodding week.

I’ve always believed that the one favour you can do for your children, and for their peer group, is to be realistic about them. Don’t expect behaviour miracles to come overnight, but also let’s quickly lose the rose-tinted view of how perfect they are, no matter how much effort it took to propel them from your vagina, because I haven’t met a single child in the boys’ class who doesn’t have a strong propensity to be a little shitbag from time to time. Most parent freely admit this with a cynical eye-roll, and usually we laugh and pour each other another gin. A sense of perspective with children is vitally important, and the violent, sanctimonious, immature little fuckers are still learning. They all make mistakes. So do I.

And I feel lost. Completely out of my depth. My wonderful, funny, lively, intelligent son, who is moving up to a lovely CofE high school in September but who still goes to sleep with his thumby in, and who loves nothing more than a cuddle and to rub the tips of his fingers along my fingernails for comfort, tried to throw himself out of his bedroom window yesterday. After he’d trashed the garden. And after he’d raced towards me with a metal spike. And called his brother a twat. (I obviously show huge signs of disapproval at the swearing part, as well as everything else, because parenting is 99% hypocrisy, and anyway, the boys don’t know I write this shit down.) He then made a dramatic exit out of the front door, and I found him 20 minutes later, cowering in a bus stop, sobbing. The amateur psychologist in me – no, wait, let’s not big up my part – the former childhood attention-seeker in me, recognises that none of these things were done seriously, and were all a bit half-hearted. I am pretty confident he was not about to board the next bus into the big city, nor was his bottom ever going to leave that window ledge. But it’s still awful to watch, and worse when you feel powerless to help and are the only adult in authority. But I don’t feel like I am an adult, or in any kind of authority.

Hubby and I were the ultimate team. We never quite intended for it to happen this way after we got married, but before we knew it we were living and working together, and bringing up our two sons completely in tandem. It was so easy to share the load. If he was working, I’d cook, or vice versa. If they were being little bastards, he’d give them a verbal bollocking. We’d both be there at school drop-off, pickup, bathtime, story time, bed time, and he and I just loved parenting them. They were his joy, but like me, he was fully aware of their faults, and would hold up a mirror to them whenever it was necessary.

The bollockings. I never really did them. I wasn’t all that good at discipline, and it didn’t matter because my hubby was there to jump in, snap his fingers, and get things done. I was too soft, and I know I was, but it feels as if now, I’m paying the price.

I went into school. I begged for help. I guess it wasn’t particularly convenient that my husband died a couple of weeks before SATs and now all the teacher wants to do is freewheel to the end of term. But, to give her credit, she’s sent through a referral to Behaviour Support (although she did manage to fill in the form with enough spelling mistakes to make this Grammar Nazi wince, and quietly wonder what the fuck she’s been teaching them all year.)

It’s not her job to be a grief counsellor as well as a teacher. I know that. I’m also told that their behaviour at school is completely normal for their age group and for the time of year. “End of Year Six-itis” was her diagnosis. She said they were all being cocky and difficult little fuckers, or something along those lines. But one child in particular is desperately sad, angry, and so consumed by grief that he’s taking it all out on the people closest to him, and his twin brother is trying so hard to forget his grief that he won’t discuss it at all. I don’t know which is worse – loud-mouthed drama queen, or insular nerd. They’re both as heartbreaking as each other, but the noisy one has my full attention just for now. I don’t know how to throw him a lifebelt when I can’t see one anywhere, but I know I need to get hold of one quickly before he grabs our hands and pulls us all down to the depths with him.

Love Fanny x

My son’s Fathers’ Day card. His twin brother has made one too, but he wants to hide it in his memory box so I haven’t seen it. Neither of them are assholes – just very, very mixed up little boys who want their Daddy back. And so do I. 

The Hierarchy of Hell.

I think we’re all still reeling from the horrific murder of Jo Cox. I know I haven’t stopped thinking about her and her family all week. Regardless of the political or mental health reason, or both, that led to her death, that woman went to work the other day and didn’t come home. Her life was snatched from her in the most brutal of ways, leaving her young family broken.

When I’ve heard of other people who’ve recently died, I’ve tried to assess it in my own mind. I’ll weigh it up and wonder if their family will be grieving more than we are, and even silently ask myself if they have the right to. There’s a part of me that gets a bit pissed off with people banging on about their father-in-law who was a bit of a miserable old bastard anyway, and who sadly passed “unexpectedly.” Unexfuckingspectedly? Oh, do me a favour. He was 87 and smoked and drank all his life, I chunner to myself. Get a grip. My kids’ daddy is dead, I think. They’re ten, you’re 56. Get over it, I think.

But, I know these are the irrational thoughts of a grieving woman who’s trying to make sense of her newfound place in the world, even though she doesn’t yet know where that place is. Of course people are entitled to their grief, but actually, yes – there is a hierarchy. There has to be. Sometimes it can be quantified.

When my husband died, we knew it was coming. It was bloody awful, but he did at least know that he could choose where he died, and who he spent his last days with. He saw the people he wanted to see, and wrote some loving letters to the people he didn’t have the strength to face in person. He said what he needed to say, and heard what he needed to hear. Nothing was left unfinished, and we all knew how much we loved each other. He was grateful to have had a comfortable but too-short existence, and appreciated that his end would come in a warm bed, and not on a battlefield or in a refugee camp. He got seriously pissed off with the rolling news coverage when David Bowie died because – although he’d been a lifelong fan – he didn’t see the death of a sixty-something successful bloke as a “tragedy,” any more than he saw his own demise as one. There was far worse shit going on around the world, he said. It’s bad, we don’t want this to be happening, but it could always be worse.

So, when Jo Cox was gunned down and stabbed the other day, for reasons we don’t yet quite know, of course it was a tragedy. Here was a mother – a mother (and we always consoled ourselves with the idea that a child losing a mother is the ultimate tragedy, after a parent losing a child,) whose children would grow up without her. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Tragically.

When I was 18, one of my best friends was stabbed to death by another friend – his brother-in-law. It happened after a night out, shortly after they’d dropped me home in a taxi and gone back to theirs. The shock of finding out it had happened, and then seeing my darling friend lying lifeless in intensive care – his nose the only identifiable part of his body beneath the tubes – has never left me. I remember screaming. Screaming all the time, for weeks. I would have given anything to have brought him back, to comfort his family, to make everything OK again. It was horrific. I didn’t sleep for months, and I doubt his family did either. I remember those long, desperate nights, unable to breathe because of the sheer shock, and how every year the anniversary of his death threw me into a deep emotional black hole which would take days to climb out of. I ran away to the sun, I came back home, I clung on desperately to an unhappy and controlling relationship, and life was grim for a very long time. Although I have since sought help (with some serious support over the years from my husband,) am generally contented, and now use his anniversary as a day to do something positive – a day I now almost look forward to – not a day goes by when I don’t think about my friend, and remember him. And wish.

Multiply ad infinitum those feelings of shock and desperation, and that’s maybe where Jo Cox’s family are, and the families of anyone whose life is snatched away from them because of someone else’s sheer evil, madness or recklessness. I simply can’t imagine how much more grief it’s possible to bear than that which I endured as a teenager, but my God, it must be so much more painful for them. I only had a friend. Jo Cox’s husband had a wife. Their children had a mother. How much worse can it be than that?

To feel desperately sad that my husband died from cancer is quite understandable. The grief is ever-present, but it’s nothing that can be compared in any way to the shock which follows a murder. Our boys are struggling emotionally, but they had two years to get used to the fact that their daddy might leave them, and to somehow prepare themselves, not that you ever really can. They held his hand as he left us, and promised him they’d be good boys. Jo’s sons probably went to school on Thursday, and before the bell had even sounded for morning break, their mother would have already given them her very last kiss, cuddle and ruffle of the hair.

Is there a hierarchy of hell? Yes. And the Cox family is pretty damned close to the bottom right now, in a place where nobody ever deserves to be. Whatever path our little family’s journey of grief takes us on, Jo Cox’s murder reminds me that we must always be grateful for the chance to have said goodbye, and that one of us simply slipped away quietly, surrounded by love, and at peace.

Love Fanny x


Part of my husband’s final letter to me – which he wrote about a week before he died. His mind was starting to tire, and he wasn’t sure what to say. I told him he didn’t need to write at all, because he’d said everything already. But, he’d already written to his children, and was determined to do the same for me. I’m so glad he did. Not everyone has this luxury.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand.



We went to a party on Saturday night. It’s not the first time we’ve been out, the boys and I (or indeed I on my own,) since D-Day, and although I mainly want to stay at home curled up in a ball, I know it’s A Good Thing to go out and I need to make the effort. We need to socialise, and I’m determined that my hubby doesn’t just slip into obscurity, and become some legendary bloke who we all vaguely remember. No. He has a name, and we use it often. Still, I’m pretty selective about who I feel up to partying with, as the fixed social smile often gets wiped away by tears. For the most part, the small talk I used to be so good at makes me feel a bit nauseous, and I don’t want people to ask how I am because they won’t like the answer. For now, I’ve pushed away from the rest of the world and only brought my closest allies along with me for the ride. No. His closest allies. His dearest friends. They’re all I want.

Over a glass of wine and a few nibbles (we always wondered why crisps tipped into a bowl suddenly become nibbles, just because they’re in a fucking bowl,) somebody remarked to me that at least my hubby wasn’t in pain any more. What a cliché. I get it. I’ve known for the last eight weeks that clichés exist for good reason, because they’re often painfully true, but really? That comment tipped me right over the edge. Let me tell you something about my husband.

He was brilliant. For the last five months of his life, he was in constant pain. Truly awful. His liver tumours were growing and he struggled for breath as his lungs kept on filling with fluid. But, his attitude (and a hefty supply of morphine and dexamethasone) meant that that didn’t stop him. He carried on working until he could barely work any more, was riding rollercoasters with me, our boys, and a bunch of chums at Blackpool Pleasure Beach one month and a day before he died, and even squeezed in a week’s holiday in the sunshine. We returned home three weeks before he passed away. But dying was never on the agenda.

He didn’t want to die. He had no intention of leaving us. He fought tooth and nail to stay. Was he in pain? Yes. Did he mind? Yes. Could he have gone on for longer? You bet. He had not given up. Pain was just an inconvenience that he had to put up with in order to stay with his adored boys, but giving up or dying were not on the list.

I sat with him for almost every moment in those last days. Those long, surreal, dark days. He needed me to administer his meds and help him to the loo. We talked about inconsequential things, and important things, and his mind began to shut down. In the early hours of the morning, he wanted to know where Prestons of Potto were based, and then proceeded to piss on the hall floor. He then shuffled back to bed with his oxygen tube in one hand and my hand in the other, but decided to adopt a Scottish accent for the journey back. He began not to remember that he was dying. It was probably a blessing, because he had been too stubborn to let go, and would not have ever given up of his own accord. Ever.

That hand-holding, though. Those beautiful hands that had been so animated; they were the first thing I fell in love with nearly fifteen years ago. Those hands that became, like him, emaciated and uncomfortable to hold on to, and not the fleshy, slightly wrinkled (but his) hands I’d always held. But they were there, and there was a pulse. He was still inside those hands, somewhere. He could squeeze mine, or I could kiss his. Or kiss his face, or his stubbly chemo-ravaged head. When there was still a pulse, he wasn’t there – he was gone in all but heartbeat and breath – but I could hold his hand. He was still him, and he was ours to love.

When he was gone completely, a waxwork took his place. One moment, we could hold his hand and love him – HIM, the man, the person, the daddy – and the next, we were touching something with as much life and texture as a piece of plasticine, or a doll. But at the same time, that doll was so familiar, wearing my husband’s favourite t-shirt, wedding ring in place, and his wristwatch still ticking, even though everything in our collective world had stopped.

Those hands, like the rest of him, are dust. His wedding ring lives on my finger now, but there is no longer a hand to hold. Would he have carried on, despite the pain, until now? Of course, and beyond. And if he could have done, we’d still have that hand to hold, and to hold us in return.

Is it a comfort to me that he’s not in pain any more? No, because the pain, for him, and for the rest of us, was better than his not being here at all.

Love Fanny xHold Your Hand

Let’s Talk About Death, Baby.

A couple of days after my husband was sent home to die by the “world leading cancer hospital” that was treating him, this text arrived.


It has to be the final insult from a hospital who gave us false hope when there wasn’t any, kept dragging us in for pointless appointments which often ran over two hours late, hadn’t contacted our GP with an update since February, and kicked my hubby out in an ambulance with nothing but his pyjamas and a bottle of oxygen at 7.30pm on a Friday night after failing to spot a significant mass of tumour and telling us there was therefore nothing more they could do.

Without a fantastic selection of local friends – some of whom are our GPs and were brilliant at sourcing help from the district nursing team (and one even went the extra mile and took a night shift on the sofa so I could get some sleep in bed) – we would have been left completely high and dry. No contact from Macmillan, Marie Curie, or our local hospice, despite several referrals, not to mention several thousand pounds’ worth of fundraising done by our family over the last two years. Not even a leaflet to tell you what you might expect from dying (which – we have learned the hard way – is a process, not an event, and I promise you, nothing like it is in the movies.) God knows what people do when they’re completely on their own, because we were well supported by friends and family, and any medical questions were comprehensively and willingly answered, but the hospital didn’t know that, and you don’t know what to expect anyway until it’s 3am and you’re completely alone and helping the man you love to cough up tumours, or get to the toilet when he can’t support his own body weight, or calling an ambulance because he’s fallen out of the hospital bed which was supplied without cot sides or even sheets – two days after his discharge because they don’t work weekends. He actually slept in the kitchen for two nights until it finally arrived because he couldn’t get up the stairs. His one wish was to die comfortably at home, and the romantic and quiet vision we had in our heads was nowhere near the reality of what happened. We never knew he might lose all his cognitive functions. He never EVER wanted me to wipe his bottom for him, but I did that too (willingly, of course, as the “sickness and health” part of our marriage vows were taken seriously,) and after finding him lying on the floor without underpants, his catheter spilling out all over the carpet, had to have him hoisted back into bed by two strong neighbours which was distressing for everyone – except my husband, who by then, thank God, was blissfully unaware.

When you have a baby, part of the fun of looking around the delivery suite is being told that you might shit yourself during the process of birth, that it’s completely normal, and that a midwife would just come along and wipe it up. It sounds ghastly, but it happens to almost everyone, apparently. In death, it’s much the same. But did we know that a major bowel evacuation often happened shortly before the body shuts down completely? No, we did not. It wasn’t a sign we knew to look for, and I remember wiping it all away through the tears and feeling so angry on my darling husband’s behalf, because it was all so fucking undignified.

When they tell you to go and “enjoy the last two weeks,” they don’t tell you that you might only have a couple of days before his brain starts to shut down, and that the most quick-witted man you’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing won’t even know who he is any more, or that the man with the sexiest voice in the world would lose almost all power of speech. They don’t tell you that he won’t be able to understand simple medicine regimes or that you’ll have to give him his favourite drink (tea – milk, one sugar) from the toddler’s sippy cup you’ve had to borrow from a neighbour. They don’t tell you that the district nursing team are so tightly bound in red tape that they can “only treat what they see” when they get there, regardless of whether it’s taken them an hour to get to you after you call them in a panic because your husband can’t breathe (by which time you’ve just about got him settled again.) They won’t administer any drugs which might alleviate the symptoms if HE says he doesn’t need them, even if they’ve been prescribed by his best friend, and he won’t take anything orally because he doesn’t know what it’s all for any more, and thinks the nurses are all trying to kill him. He also said he was left handed (he wasn’t) and talked a lot to the people “over there” who didn’t even exist, yet the nurses couldn’t accept the word from two of the people who loved him the most – his wife, and his best friend, the doctor.

They don’t tell you that by law you have to have his DNR in the house and keep it safe – to be produced at will like it’s just some bank statement or other, or that you have to casually pop down to the chemist in your lunch hour to pick up the controlled drugs which will eventually finish him off, peacefully at least, and chuck them in the boot with the rest of the emergency chicken nuggets and milk you’ve had to grab from Morrisons so the kids don’t starve.

I have no regrets about my husband coming home to die – it was his wish, and I was happy to help him to be as comfortable as possible. If I couldn’t do that for him after everything he’d done for us, it would have been a pretty poor show. In some ways, it was lovely to be able to hold his hand any time, or to see the boys playing next to his bed in the sitting room like it was all completely normal. I just wish someone at the hospital might have talked things through with us so we knew what to expect, before they kicked him out. He didn’t know what was expected of him, and as his mind began to fade, he kept asking when he was supposed to die – reducing his little boys, and grown men friends, to tears.

I also wish they hadn’t strung him along with outlandish life expectancy predictions in the way they did, because the most heartbreaking part of all for us all was that he was not at peace with dying at all, was not ready, and resisted it all the way, but there was nothing anyone could do to stop it happening. They could and should have said to him months ago that there was no hope at all, at which point he could have begun to prepare to go gently and peacefully.

The outcome would have been the same either way, but if my husband had been discharged following a proper conversation about death, dying, and each of our roles within it, we’d have been far better prepared for the inevitable. It’s time to talk openly about death.

Until then, we chose option 7 – total fucking shambles.

Love Fanny x

The Luxury of Grief.

It’s been a while since I wrote anything here. Not because I’ve had nothing to say, but because I’ve had no time to say it.

The few months after my last post were relatively normal, but under the shadow of a cancer that wouldn’t go away. Back in the summer, hubby had three weeks of chemo which nearly killed him. He couldn’t walk, speak or breathe, and decided that he wanted to enjoy whatever time he had left. When you feel that shit, you think death would be a blessed relief, but at the same time, you don’t really believe it’ll ever actually come. After that, we just lived. Normally (ish.) We went on holiday, and were talking about where we might go to next before we’d even come home. He did the school run, and mucked in with the cooking. He helped me to price difficult jobs in the business we run together, and ferried the boys to footy, drama, youth club and the rest. He carried on doing the job he loved, in the hope of putting away a bit of cash for the future of the boys he’d always wanted to see graduate, if not get married, and life went on… Although, feeling “fine” through all of these everyday events – particularly the open day of the wonderful secondary school we’ve spent every Sunday for over a decade racking up God Miles to get them in to – is darkened by the nagging wonder of whether or not he’ll live to see them start their very first year.

The shadow of terminal illness is ever-present. It follows you to the loo, and hits you in the face at the supermarket when you’re trying to work out which butter is the best value. It eats away at your sleep and your comfort, but it hasn’t let me cry.

Grief is a luxury afforded to those who are on the outside. The man we vaguely know from parties thrown by a mutual friend, who bumped into my husband at the changing room at the gym, and who came out of there in floods of tears and sobbed on my shoulder. The good friend who broke down on hearing the news and vowed to do everything she could to help us to fight it together. The fellow mums in the playground who come up and hug me and ask how things are going, while trying to hold back the tears as they admit it’s not they who should be crying-  it’s me. But it isn’t me. I can’t seem to feel that this is real at all. It seems that, by taking a step back and looking in, the perspective changes. They know it’s incurable. They can imagine life without him because they’ve seen it happen to other people they know, and anyway, they’re not the ones having their entire worlds turned upside down. It’s shit, they say, and I nod and say yes it is, but you never know – it’s not over until the fat lady sings (or in our case, until the man I love is lying cold in my arms. I don’t say that bit out loud.)

Everyone congratulates our family for our relentless positivity. No wonder he’s doing so well, they say. Positivity kills cancer, they say. You’re an inspiration to us all, they say.

But, it’s impossible to grieve for something which you don’t really believe is happening in the first place.

Love Fanny x

I began to write this post a few months ago, and never got around to finishing it at the time. My husband passed away on April 14th 2016.