A wonderful life: A month on since my husband’s passing

It is almost a month since my beloved Edward passed away after his year-long battle with Motor Neurone Disease.

I have not felt like writing; my head has been so jumbled and trying to make even the simplest decision has been a challenge.

The last three months went by so fast since our return from Italy. I have no regrets taking Edward on this journey and he had no regrets either. We had the go-ahead from his specialist, so I feel we did the right thing in my heart.

The last months of my husband’s life were spent in the hospital and also in rest home care. He needed twenty-four-hour care which we were unable to manage at home as much as I wanted to.

The facility where Edward was at Kumeu was lovely. Only about two years old, it came complete with Shetland ponies, cats, dogs, goats, chickens and birds. Often one of the carers would bring the ponies into the resident’s rooms. I am not quite sure what my husband thought of this. Somehow it didn’t seem to match the polished floors and chandeliers that hung in the foyer. The staff who worked there were so kind and compassionate and that gave me comfort knowing he was well cared for.

Edward handled himself with dignity and was so brave all through his journey. In the end, he could barely swallow, drink or move any part of his body. MND has to be up there as one of the cruellest diseases. My husband had led a really healthy life, hadn’t smoked or had a drink in about forty years. He was definitely the fitter of the two of us.

To lose the love of your life at sixty-nine and to have been married almost forty-nine years has been so hard for me to accept. Crying seems to be my norm, along with getting out of bed late. Sleeping is difficult and I have ended up sleeping in my daughter’s bed. Thank goodness she has a wonderful husband who seems ok sleeping in my bed at the moment.

Over the last few days, I am beginning more and more to appreciate how blessed I was to have had such a wonderful husband and marriage.

My husband was softly spoken, hardly ever raised his voice and always made everything in life seem better. We have three wonderful children and four lovely grandchildren.

Over the years we have been so fortunate to have been able to travel. Often we have lived on a baked beans diet, just in order to travel. When our children were young we saved hard and took them overseas as often as possible. We did not have a flash car or house but I feel we gave them great life experiences.

Edward and I love Italy and as people who have read my stories will know we have travelled to Lucca many times. I always hoped we would win big in lotto one day so we could buy our own little bolthole there.

Trying to plan the perfect celebration of Edwards’s life was not too hard. He loved colour, he loved travel and he loved music.

So I dressed him up in his favourite bright tee shirt, his snazzy blue-framed glasses and his mustard tailored trousers. His casket was a bright blue, on the top was some artwork my son had done (he is an art teacher), plus some Italy stickers. Inside was his favourite green blanket, mementoes of Italy, along with soft cuddly toys from the grandchildren.

The celebration itself was in a lovely little deconsecrated white church in the grounds of the Corbans Art Centre. My friend played the piano and we had an opera singer sing some of Edwards’s favourite songs including ‘Sole Mio’ which definitely lifted the roof off. I asked all our friends to dress in bright colours and I feel Edward would have been happy with his perfect send off.

As the days go by I want to reflect on all my precious memories. I know how lucky I have been to have met this wonderful, kind, and caring man who only came to New Zealand on a short working holiday from Australia. We met at the New Zealand Herald where we both worked in advertising.

I have much to be grateful for, Edwards love of music rubbed off on me as well and often we would just spend an evening listening to music. It always seemed to make any situation feel better.

This Christmas will be hard but as a family, we have decided not to have our usual Christmas at home. I don’t want to spend the day crying, so staying in a hotel with the family for a few days seemed the best option.

I am sure there will be readers out there who have gone through a similar thing and I do feel for you, it is hard, it is painful but once the sadness moves away a bit it’s time to think of all the special moments you shared together. Its early days still for me but with all the love and hugs from my family, I can do it.

My favourite quote and my own.

“A life without music is no life all”


By Kay Rayner

Writer and film producer.

Read more from Kay here