My first husband John Davies died yesterday. He was only 57, and had been suffering from bowel cancer for a long time. John was brave and suffered horrible pain, gruelling treatments and many indignities. At the end he was looked after by Trinity Hospice, and he couldn’t have had better care. I feel desperately sad that a wonderful dad and grandpa had his life cut so short.
We met in Manchester, in our mid-20s, married and we had three kids – Esme, George and Gus. When we married we made a deal that, if we had kids together, we would see it as a lifelong commitment to the family, even if our relationship floundered. So we shared looking after the family in a modern way and did our very best. After a decade or so we did split up and eventually divorced. He remarried Jo who already had two daughters Lily and Rosa, and stepson Nathan. I remarried – Nick – too. But John and I carried on loving and respecting each other, and we remained firm friends to the very end. I will honour the pledge I made to him and will do my best to provide for our children and grandchildren.
John was creative, very smart and funny, and an early developer. At 14 years old he was organising protests at school (the Marxist Pupil Power Union) against a compulsory carol service and school uniforms. At 17, when his parents disapproved of his girlfriend, they got married and moved into a rented flat. He supported himself through college working in a food processing factory and at Tinsley Wire. As a student at Sheffield Polytechnic he led demonstrations and continued throughout his life to fight against real injustice as well as the things he simply found annoying. He was a great organiser with twice as much energy as everyone else. Most at home in the country – especially in the north of England – hiking for long distances, even when he was already very ill – and camping. He walked his two dogs daily and came back with firewood. He loved gardening and created an absolute oasis of beauty around his home, including the grass verges which are just now blooming from his cultivation and attention. And trains – going on them, reading about them, especially steam but also diesel, and creating a detailed model railway in the garage.
John made videos and computer-based media as a youngster, pushing the boundaries technically and in terms of content – most of it comedy and satire. He studied throughout his life qualifying as a teacher, getting an MSc in computing and an MBA in education. When he needed to get a proper job he worked in Arts Education for EdExcel, until his recent ill-health retirement. He made and decorated the cakes for all the family weddings and Christenings, as well as parties and birthdays. A couple of Christmases ago – 2014 – Nick and I were due to spend time with my Mother in Lancashire. She fell and ended up in hospital so John and Jo invited us to join them for Christmas lunch.
For me he was my husband, my love, my children’s dad. Others in the same position will know that you don’t stop loving someone when you agree to part. We were never critical of each other, and we worked together to provide a firm and consistent base for the kids, especially after our divorce.
John was just the best Dad there was. He saw the children every single week (often at Wong Kei in China Town), took them on holiday, phoned daily when they were younger and just communicated constantly, especially when they needed him. He was great with children and young people. He has been an amazing grandpa too, supported by his dear wife Jo (she who knits Minion jumpers). The fact that my boys know how to care for others, especially little kids, is testimony to his amazing, insightful and loving parenting. I am so glad my sons have turned out like their Dad.
What else can I say? John was very funny, genuine, principled, intelligent, generous and sociable. He bore his illness so bravely. Cancer is desperately cruel and dying when you are still young and vigorous seems terribly wrong. Our family knew that his untimely death was inevitable and coming soon. It cast a somber mood over all our lives. Nick and I did what we could to provide support and love to John, Jo and her children, John’s brothers Paul and Mike and their girls Robbyn and Briony, and our kids Esme, George, Gus, Ted and Kit. Many of you too will have faced death, loss, bereavement and deep sadness. It is part of life as much as birth, growth, achievement and happiness. But today my grief feels very raw as I say goodbye for good to my dear love: John.