Good bye darling

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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.

1980s fashion
1980s cool cats

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.

Family Christmas 2014
John cutting his homemade Christmas cake 2014

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.



66 Responses

  1. Joanne

    What a moving tribute and a very beautifully written post. I too have an ex- husband who is loved and understand that delicate balance which is confusing to many people. 57 is terribly young and I feel for you and all the strands of the family. Sending you lots of love Kate xxx

  2. Jenny

    You and your family have lost a wonderful person, much too soon. I am so sad for you and send you much love. xx

  3. Jane

    You said recently that you and your family were facing a tragedy and this is truly that. I am so very sorry Kate. It is heartbreaking that someone so loved, clever and creative should have died so young. Much love to you and all your family. Jane xx

  4. Mem

    Thank you for your tribute . You obviously appreciated each other so much . I am sorry for your loss and especially the sadness that so many are feeling at his passing .

  5. Stephanie

    This is so terribly sad. I am so sorry for all of you having to experience this terrible loss. 57 is simply way too young. Much love to you all.

  6. Martina

    So very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute you write for him…your children will treasure your words.

  7. Nicola Dibb

    So sorry to read this sad news Kate. I know how hard it is to keep a relationship going for the children’s sake after a break up & it seems like you and John managed it perfectly – sounds like he was a wonderful person! Sympathy extended to you & your children who have so sadly lost their Dad Nx

  8. ChaCha

    Kate, what a beautiful tribute you have written. It is rare that such amazing people come into our lives and even more rare that two people can be so loving and respectful after divorce. What a wonderful example to your children and a testament to the rest of us. Hugs xx

  9. neucarol

    A wonderful tribute.
    Thank you for showing another alternative for life after divorce, and another definition of Family.
    Blessings to you and your extended family.

  10. Sue

    A lovely tribute and very moving post. How wonderful that you were friends to the very end. His legacy will be lasting…

  11. pia

    I’m so sorry for your loss Kate. It’s hard even when you know it’s coming. Hope you are ok. Take it easy.

  12. Maggie

    So sorry for your loss, Kate. What a lovely deed you and John did for your children by your agreement- the world would be a better place if more people acted like this. You have written a beautiful and loving tribute.

  13. Lynn

    What a beautiful eulogy. I too lost my (by then divorced husband) way too young. He had just turned 60, and had life cut short by the many consequences of PTSD. We had done the same, caring together peacefully for our children and parents for the last 14 years of his life, although we did not live under the same roof.

  14. SJ Kurtz

    I am sorry for your family’s loss, for your children, and please know your beautiful tribute is not lost on deaf ears. What a fine set of adults you are! Honored to know such families still exist in this world.
    Much love, my dear, much love.

  15. Judith Cheney

    He sounds wonderful from your beautiful homage to him. I am very sorry he suffered & died so young.

  16. Mary Funt

    I’m so sorry to hear the news but I know he must have suffered horribly and is now at peace. He left a wonderful legacy in your children as they sound like caring, thoughtful people who are totally committed to family. I pray that as the days pass you will have more fond memories of him and they will ease the pain of losing him so young.

  17. Yumi

    I’m so sorry for your loss Kate. It’s a wonderful tribute. I think he was a very lucky man cause you, your children and your grandchildren were in his life.

  18. Sheree

    So, so sad. What a warm and insightful tribute. I hope putting those words together gave some comfort to you.

  19. Polly

    I’m very sorry to hear you are all going through such a dreadful time. I hope that you now have time to look after yourselves knowing that you did your best for him and he is not in pain any more.

  20. mrsmole

    Such a lovely bright light throughout your time together has been extinguished but your memories will remain and thank you for sharing your story with us. We will never understand why such a special person should be taken so young. I’m sorry for your pain and that of your children and grandchildren.

  21. tamsinwp

    Very sorry to hear of your loss, but what a lovely tribute. It sounds like you had a fantastic relationship despite not being together. Thank you for sharing – thinking of you.

  22. jennifer miller

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Kate. You’ve written a moving and honest tribute. John must have truly been a fine and loving soul, and much beloved; thank you for sharing for your heartbreak with us. Sending love to you and yours.

  23. Ruth

    Been there and I completely understand. We didn’t have children together but we shared a lot of life and learning together. You have written a truly fitting tribute to John but in reality, it is the next generation that bear the results and here too you have both been very successful. Condolences to you and your family.

  24. Karen of Fifty Dresses

    This is an amazingly beautiful tribute to John and to your lifelong commitment to your family (and to each other.) Thank you for sharing such a personal and touching remembrance with us. My condolences to you at this poignant and sad time.

  25. Elle

    Kate, I’m so sorry for the loss of this lovely man. My sympathy to you and your children and all the family. The affection and respect you two accorded one another–and the priority you placed on the well-being of your children–is a moving demonstration of what love can do. Thank you for sharing this thoughtful tribute.

  26. Nhi

    Dearest Kate, such moving eulogy to John. I would like to have met John. My thoughts are with you, Esma, George and Gus at this very difficult time. Tender thoughts

  27. cathe

    Kate, I am so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you and your family. You and John had such an honorable relationship.This is a lovely tribute to a man that was so dear to you.

  28. Abbey

    This tribute brought tears to my eyes. I am so, so sorry for your loss; I hope that you all are able to find comfort in one another and your collective love and memories of John. He sounds like a truly remarkable person: thank you for sharing this small part of him with all of us.

  29. helen

    I haven’t been on wordpress for a few days so have only just read this post. It is a very moving post you have written and your views and commitment the pair of you shared for raising your children is inspirational.

  30. Summerflies

    I’m sorry for your loss. What a beautiful, considered way to conduct your lives and a great gift to your children and in turn to the whole extended families, and then this passes on and on.

  31. Bunny

    I am so sorry for your loss, Kate. You have written a beautiful tribute to this man. I wish you comfort in your grieving process. I know it must be very hard.

  32. Tim Martin

    Kate – I was stunned to learn belatedly of John’s death. I knew John quite well, first when he came down to London from Sheffield, (where I had previously known mutual friends Lois Davies (no relation) and Ceri Dingle from the Art School).
    John joined, and managed, the design production team I worked with in London and we designing newspapers, magazines, books and posters. He and subsequently you moved into the flat in Battersea.

    In the nineties, at a chance conference meeting, as I finished teacher training, he offered me my first teaching job and I ended up joining him and Jim Burden at the School of Printing at Berkshire College of Art & Design. John and I didn’t always see eye to eye but there was always mutual respect and a lot of water under the bridge.

    I’ve learned he subsequently worked alongside our mutually respected collegue Sarah Fretwell at EdExcel Pearson.

    I’d lost touch again and the last thing I saw of his were photographs in Anna Minton’s ‘Ground Control’.

    A really strong character – well remembered and genuinely missed.

    Thank you Kate for your thoughtful words of remembrance – I wish you and your families all strength and very best wishes.

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