My first post.

I think I’ve felt over the past few weeks that I have shared a lot, perhaps at times too much, but for me it’s one of the important ways in which I express myself. Facebook is so often a place of life through a filter. We can pretty much portray our lives in which ever way we choose. If that selfie isn’t quite what it could be, a quick fix on an app can turn us more into the person we perhaps wish we were. The family holiday may have been filled with stresses and at times arguments, but the story we present to our family and friends is one of idyllic family walks down a sun soaked beach. Often when people present the realities of life, in all its ugliness and beauty, we don’t know quite what to do, to say, or whether to even press like.

I wanted to create a place where I can continue to express what I’m feeling and the painful journey I find myself on and give people the option to read it or leave it be.

My church recently asked if I’d write something about Gemma, and this is what I wrote. PS – If anyone knows this site and knows how to get rid of that annoying pink logo and change the font on here I’d be really grateful.

On the penultimate week of November the life of our family changed forever in the most brutal of ways. After complaining of headaches for three weeks and having been to the Dr’s three times in the space of six days, Gemma went to A&E on the Monday night at the Royal Berks. In the early hours of that dark Monday morning she was diagnosed with blood cancer and later that day was transferred to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. Gemma had developed Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, a rare and devastating strain of the disease. Having initially responded well to the intense chemotherapy Gemma suddenly went downhill very rapidly on the Thursday night and at just before 6pm on Friday 24th November she went to be with the Lord, aged just 40 years.

Just saying those words is intensely painful. Although this has rocked my faith I know that one day we will see her again in eternity but it doesn’t change the bleak reality of the now, the future. For me as her husband she was my rock. Patient, kind, loving and forgiving. In a career where I spend my life in the glare of the media she was the wind beneath my wings.

When I doubted myself she was the one who would remind me of not just her faith in me but God’s. She was my best friend; she made me so very happy. Life without her is impossible to comprehend. The void she has left in my life is beyond measure.

But the biggest sadness of all is my eight-year-old boy Ethan. Gemma and Ethan had the most special of relationships. Having been through the pain of IVF and a miscarriage a few years before to give Ethan a brother or sister, he was our world. He was Gemma’s world. Over those eight short years, the love, the creativity, the fun and the time Gemma poured into his life was amazing. It was a beautiful relationship and the pain of now seeing my boy grow up without her is too painful to put into words. The agony of her not being here to see him grow into a man and miss all of those milestones to come for him is too much to comprehend.

However, in the same way Gemma was a rock for Ethan and I, her family and friends, she was the same for others. She stood alongside members of our church for whom life has dealt them some very hard blows. Gemma devoted so much of her time to standing with them. Listening to them, pouring wisdom into them and praying with them and for them. In the past year she had begun the project at Greyfriars to re-home a Syrian refugee family here in Reading. Her compassion as she watched that Syrian refugee crisis unfold wasn’t a hollow one, she was putting it into action, and it is heart breaking that she won’t be here to see her vision fulfilled.

Gemma still had so much more to give, more lives to touch, and yet has been taken from us in the cruellest of ways. No time for goodbyes, no time to prepare, no time to savour those last days together, she’s gone. For Ethan and I everything has changed. The hopes and dreams of the years to come with Gemma have been ripped to shreds. One day we will start making new plans and having new dreams, but now is the time to grieve and just get through each day. My simple prayer is that God helps us just to do that.

God Bless

Simon and Ethan

58 thoughts on “My first post.

  1. This is beautiful. I can see these posts turning into a book that will help others one day. You write beautifully. I hope it helps in your healing process. Continue to take care of yourself. You wise man, you. X

  2. Dear Simon and Ethan,
    I’m so terribly sorry to hear of the loss of your lovely wife and Ethan’s Mum, Gemma. She sounded like a wonderful, compassionate, caring, and giving woman who touched the lives of many. It’s really hard to try to fathom why stuff like this happens to people. I admire your braveness to open up and share your thoughts and your memories of her with others. Writing can be such a good outlet and can help others too. Her memory will live on through you and Ethan, and the people whom she met and lives she changed with her kindness and compassion. I wish you and your family peace and comfort.
    (nee Knight. Childhood friend of your sister Hannah).

  3. Beautiful words Simon my partner 27 yrs ago was taken into hospital in Tuesday n died 2 days later on the Thursday diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia ….. the grief the shock was heart breaking …. I love reading your words … sometimes I respond I hope this is ok….at that time there was no social media etc n isolation soon set in….
    Here’s sending love n blessings to team Thomas
    Hil x

  4. For Simon & Ethan,
    Beautiful words, from the outside looking in.. the hardest part is we can only imagine your pain but don’t actually feel it , I feel sadness and will miss Gemma, and as a mother my heart aches that Ethan has lost his wonderful mum but I also feel frustrated that nothing can really ease your pain. All I can say is the hurdles you have overcome already are tremendous , The hospital, Gems celebration, being an amazing Dad to Ethan, Christmas , New year, Walking through the door of the beautiful home you all shared, the school run and many more day to day routines that we all take in our stride when our lives aren’t ripped apart by grief. In the last 6 weeks although some of those tasks have seemed impossible, you’ve done it, and survived.
    Don’t doubt how amazing you are…. you’ve got this ❤️❤️
    Much Love
    The Martins xxxx

  5. We don’t know one another but your posts have hit a huge chord with me…. My husband died at the age of 34 in November 2016 from advanced bowel cancer. We’re a little further down the road you guy have to travel- I also have two very young boys. If I could pass on any wisdom it would be this……

    Your pain has already and will continue to make you grow and shape as a person, there are parts of your soul you’re still discovering & grief has a way of bringing the bad, ugly & beautiful to the surface. Hold on to the beautiful, it will get you through!

    Ethan will be the compass of light that gets you through this. I don’t need to tell you this as you will already know BUT you will be astounded by his love, resilience and courage. Children who know loss are so empathetic and kind- it makes my heart burst with pride….

    Your faith will be shaken to its core but at times solace with the Holy Spirit is sometimes the only place you will feel “you.” Pray. Lament. Be angry. I found reading the psalms daily a great help…

    “The seed falling on good soil refers to someone who reads it and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop.”

    There’s still crop for you guys to produce and light in this utterly brutal darkness. Keep going,
    one hour, one day at a time. X

    Ps When you have the head space, read Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B! It’s AMAZING she wrote it after her husband dropped dead!

  6. Simon, you have been very much in our prayers over recent weeks.We didn’t know Gemma but don’t doubt any of the wonderful things you’ve said about her. Don’t forget that Ethan sees you in the same way too: you’re a great parent as well and he’ll be looking up to you as you go through the hardest time in both your lives – don’t be too hard on yourself.

    I can’t even imagine the pain you are going through, it’s too awful to contemplate and hard to know what to say. But speaking this morning on Joseph in the pit and in prison this was the word for those facing real difficulties: God is with you. I know you don’t need to be told, but sometimes it’s hard to remember.

    Stick with it, one day at a time. We continue to pray.

    Much love and God bless you both,
    Chris & Catherine

  7. What can I say … A truly brave thing to do , sharing your raw grief with others your little boy can read this in years to come and take comfort & understanding of it all , I’ve read you are also helping lots of others please know and as I’ve read there are lots of people who are caring about you both ,I don’t know you , however if there is any thing you need , we will all be standing right by your side to help and it is ok not to be ok X Take care

  8. Firstly I am so sorry for your loss, I don’t really have the words to convey how saddened I was to read about you and your family. I was diagnosed with AML in 2015, my daughter was 8 at the time and you and Ethan have been in my thoughts a lot, I know firsthand what an unbelievably tough disease it is and we are still trying to come to terms with my diagnosis. You are so brave to share your story, it must be helping so many other people who are coping with the same and for you too, to be able to reach out and receive support… I too have been able to help others going through leukaemia in lots of ways, its helped me at the same time knowing I’ve made someone else feel less alone. I am also an ambassador for Bloodwise because I want to do something good with my life now and honour those who are not with us anymore. Keep doing what you are doing, your wife would be so proud. I hope to hear from you

  9. I kind of want to say “well done” on a very raw, honest, reality-drenched first post. But it’s not like writing this is an achievement you ever wanted to aim for. Nonetheless, welcome to the cathartic world of blogging. I make a habit of over sharing on the Internet in an attempt to weave truthfulness into a world so often filled with stuff that is other than that. Please don’t stop sharing the real. People need it. You can be the prophetic word of God in the wilderness for others, even in your brokenness and still-working-this-out-ness. We have never met, but I am praying for you and Ethan as you wrestle through this, as you work out whatever is true and noble and lovely and trustworthy in this new world you inhabit. And as you blog your way through. God bless you both. He is with you. He’s got this. You are fathering with the Father. You are living with the life-giver. You are stepping out with the one whose steps on this earth took Him to the ultimate place of darkness and grief in order to meet you when you find yourself there as well. May you know moments of Shalom in these hard and testing days. X
    PS. I have an Ethan as well. Also 8, as it happens. We named him that because of its association with “strength”. In my experience, Ethans live up to their name. Praying your Ethan knows his strength and who gives it to him as he continues to grow. I have a feeling his strength will help get both of you through at times.

  10. Hello Simon
    As a bereavement counsellor, I know that your experience of grieving will be unique to you, and that there are no easy words to help you….your own personal journey will take as long as it takes. But thank you for sharing so honestly – this is helpful not only for you but for others who suffer with their grief in silence. We are all part of the human family and need to feel each other’s griefs as if they were part of our own family unit. My prayers are with you and Ethan at this bewildering and devastating time.

  11. Dear Simon,

    I felt compelled to write whilst knowing I barely know what to say. Friends recently lost their 16 year old son suddenly and unexpectedly and so your terrible loss very much resonated with me. I pray that the Lord would sustain you and Ethan, even when it seems impossible, and that you would cling to the certain hope we have in Christ and in the love of a Father who did not spare even his own son for us.

    ‘God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
    Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
    though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.’ Ps 46:1-3

    God bless


  12. Dear Simon and Ethan, Thank you so much for sharing with such raw beautiful honesty. I hope you’ll keep sharing as and when you can. I didn’t know Gemma and she didn’t know me, but I saw her at the front of church and heard her speak. She was someone I always thought I would have time to get to know. She spoke powerfully and I was inspired by her faith, love and generosity of spirit in the few times I heard her speak. I hope you will both keep talking about her, writing about her, sharing her memory with all of us who weren’t able to know her. I know the words are painful, but I have found that painful truths are important to share when I can and that there is a healing power in it. Your story is powerful and beautiful. Thank you. And keep the faith – Team Thomas never gives up!

    P.S. I’d be happy to help with the photo issue! I’ll email you. Andy says he has your email address somewhere.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your story and writing this blog. Heard about your lovely wife’s passing on the news few weeks back and am very sorry for you and your boy and the pain you are both going through. I have no words to say except maybe to let you know that i lost my own mum at 12 (am now 41) and although it was such a tough period ( I did not have a great dad like yourself, mine was/is an alcoholic) I still went on to have a great life, the loss has made me resilient in life and I have always known whats important and never felt the need to go off the rails as some of my friends did. In a way i think children are more resilent than adults at times oF great loss. Your son is very blessed, he still has you and the 8 years your wife has loved and shaped his character/personality will help him to become the man God created him to be. I know this seems so far away now but im not sure what to say as I know nothing can take your pain away now. Please know that we are thinking and praying for you both and will continue to do so. Magda Sydney, Aus.

  14. Hi Simon
    I don’t know you but as a 38yr old mum of 2 small boys your story is so relatable. I have shed tears reading your words and hope with time you and your son can be happy again, never the same I’m sure but as happy as is possible when you are going through something such unimaginable pain. You are both in my thoughts xx

  15. Hi, I just want to let you know I’m thinking of you and your son.
    I’m sure your wife will continue to watch over and guide yous through out your lives. I’m so sorry to hear of her passing and I think it’s wonderful you made a blog and can express yourself. It’s beautiful reading of the love you have for her and the love between her and your son. Life at times just don’t seem fair but then sometimes your truely blessed to of had all the beautiful memories to look back on and meeting each other and having your son. It may of felt to short but I’m glad yous both found each there to experience that love together. Not many people find the love that it seems you and your wife had or experience that safety and comfort with each other.
    She will live on through your memories and continue to share them even one day when you have grandchildren, new in laws or with friends. I always love hearing stories from my grandparents and relatives about my love ones that have passed away and I tell my children about them so theyget to know them from my memories with them. Find time for you and your son to do nice things together to.. just to relax and chill.
    Watch a movie or go for a ride..
    Take care and I wish you and your son all the best.

  16. Hi Simon,
    I am so sorry that you are on this terrible journey. I think your posts are amazing – helping so many people. Your photos of Gemma on instagram are really beautiful and her love for you and Ethan really shines out of them. Thinking of you,
    Lucy Booth (nee Woollatt, Grimston friend of Becky and fellow Birmingham Uni alumnus) xx

  17. Dear Simon & Ethan .
    I’m so sorry for your loss.
    Stay strong on this terrible Journey , I pray every day for you and your little son Ethan .
    Much love

  18. ‪You have been in my thoughts Simon, especially with your first Birthday yesterday without your beloved wife Gemma, a tough one to get through. When I reached my first Birthday without my sister it felt so wrong, sadly I thought she may suddenly appear and every time my phone rang my heart dropped as I thought it might be her calling me as she would on my Birthday.

    It’s a feeling of disbelief that the person you love so much is no longer with you, reaching a milestone or special occasion can make you feels so empty without them.

    I hope the love and support from your family and friends eased the pain a little for you to enjoy some Birthday time with your boy Ethan.

  19. God will bless your honesty and vulnerability. He mourns with us in the dark times but is absolutely the Light in the darkness. He will not let you go, even if you are only clinging on by a fingertip. May He bless you and strengthen you and Ethan in the days, months and years to come. X

  20. I’m so truly sorry for your loss. Such a cruel way to lose someone so special. All I can say is, the grief never leaves you but, after a while the pain doesn’t smash into you every moment of every day. Your lives will never be the same but you will find a new normal, and yes, it can be a good normal. I have lost a husband and a son. 10 years since I lost my husband. 3 years since I lost my son. I still cry at the smallest thing. I still grieve their loss but I am beginning to recall the wonderful times we shared rather than the desperate times of their loss. Lean on those who love you. Never be ashamed to admit you need help. Help is always there.
    Sending you love and peace. Fran. xxx

  21. Simon,

    I cannot imagine the pain you have experienced over the last few months. In all honesty as a new father I found it hard to even contemplate your experience when I first read your tweet in November. Reading this blog reminded me of how weak we all truly are as, again, I could barely read it through and wanted to walk away from the pain. Indeed, you have been in my thoughts at times, at night especially, over the recent months (despite only knowing you from TV) and I can see that although you feel weak and broken you are clearly a fantastic father and human. I have not lost a loved one as you have but your sharing of your experience will no doubt help me in future as it is helping many others now. What can I say other than thank you for sharing and I hope that things get better for you. All the very best.

  22. Dear Simon

    Thank you so much for sharing your blog, your open heart will bring hope to many who have lost someone close to them. I heard you at The Gathering last year and found your testimony inspirational and I continue to sow hope to others using your witness at CVM events. I can share Ethan’s story in part, I lost my mum aged 11 when she was 46 to a long illness. Now at 49 I still miss her, miss the years we never shared, missed her seeing grandchildren and reliving funny stories. An early memory was when she took to a carol concert, I was around 5, the money pouch came along and I dipped my hand in and took some as I thought they were handing it out – she made me put it back, mums are great. My dad wasn’t gifted with words as you are and I didn’t come to terms with my mum’s passing for 5 years; I couldn’t picture her in my head at all. I know you will help Ethan though ups and downs and he’ll grow into a strong man. Keep sharing memories together and I hope you will share and inspire your fans and men in search of hope in the future.

    God bless. Josh.

  23. I am so touched and can feel the grief.
    May Gemma’s beautiful soul rest in peace and God always bless you and the little boy.

  24. Simon what an amazing blog. I went through a tough time after losing my dad. Writing my feelings down helped so much and so many people told me to exercise but is isn’t that easy. You are being so strong in what must be such a tough situation. You know everyday is a challenge but your faith will pull you through. I lost every shred of confidence at my lowest where I couldn’t even face meeting with another person let alone anything else. You are a true inspiration and yes men are allowed to feel this way and tell others about it. It is natural.

  25. Dear Simon,

    I have just read a piece on the BBC about you. I lost my wife to AML in 1999, we had been together since we were 16, almost half of my life at that point. My son was 5. The grief we both know about; heart wrenching, physical pain, tear stained exhaustion, corrosive all consuming wakefulness….And then there are the children, staring at you for love, reassurement and continuity. Work was great, they gave me plenty of time off. So I threw myself into school, cooking (Thank you Jamie and Delia!) and housework, but after some months I realised I was suffering. I needed my job, which I loved, to give me some balance. Grandparents stepped in and I was able to breathe easier, grieve ‘constructively’, have some perspective. My son stopped worrying about me because I became less strung out, and dare I say it happier. Yes, the guilt of being happy was an obstacle, that also had to be overcome.

    My son developed a close bond with his grand parents and an even stronger one with me. We did more together, explored life a little more together. My friends stepped in with ‘arm around his shoulder’ chats. Each step forward is not one away from your wife, but a healing process that remembers her in a good way. Nice photos around the house, but not a shrine. Always the ability to talk about her, what she might of thought about this and that, and especially what she found funny.

    Then came relationships, a tempestuous sea that doesn’t consider you a special case. The first serious breakup, caused another outpouring of grief linked trouble. But you and your children become stronger and move forward, as of course you will. ‘Every pot has a lid’, so a bloke up the road once told me. I’ve now re married and have a 9 year old son. A bruvver from anuvver muvver as we sometimes say. My late wife’s son, now 24, wouldn’t view him another way than his brother. He has a hand in raising him, a chip in life’s game.

    ‘Being strong?’ Yes, but discovering how to be strong and happy, that’s your new task.

    Good luck Simon

  26. Hello Simon,

    I was so shaken to hear and I’m so deeply sorry for your loss.

    We met a few times at Greyfriars in 2015/16. I had recently moved to the area and bought a house with my then girlfriend Naomi. I was starting over again after a complicated divorce which had meant long periods of separation from my sons.

    Loss, guilt and shame at the breakdown of my family took a long time to subside to a point where I felt I was living life going forwards.
    Whilst there is no obvious parallel in our situations, I remember your kindness to me at that time being remarkable. You did not know us, yet offered your friendship and inclusion. It truly strengthened my faith. I shall remember the greyfriars ‘brothers’ as an amazing group of true friends.

    Since then I’ve met others of great faith on this journey. Brothers, like you that help those that have fallen.

    I married Naomi in 2016 and we now both go to St Peter’s in Brighton. I dedicate as much of my time as I can to help others through our church and the relationships with my sons is greatly restored. You played an important part in that. Thank you.

    “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
    ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

    Deepest sympathy and sincerest thanks my friend


  27. Beautiful words. Extremely moving. And I have lived every syllable of them having lost my wife, Yvonne, to breast cancer aged 51 on Christmas Eve 2013 after a gruelling 18 month battle. I was left with our seven year old daughter.
    What I will tell you, no matter how low you currently feel, is that you will in time start to feel better and embrace life again. I know it’s hard and you will struggle to see that through the fog of your grief. But you will. Trust me.
    God bless. Steve

  28. Dear Simon
    I know my words cannot do anything to comfort you at this time. However your blog is helping people daily. You are a great guy and we all need you to keep going to help us do likewise. You make a difference and you need to know that. I’d hug you if I could fella and listen to whatever you wanted to say. talk it out because you matter. Stay safe … you are a superstar to me and someone who has been dealt a terrible hand but are helping others. that’s special. We love you Dan x

  29. Simon. Beautifully written words. You are such a brave man.
    Everyone deals with grief in a different way and trust me when I write – you are doing ok. My brother lost his wife 4 years ago and I can honestly say that (as his baby sister) it was the hardest thing watching him grieve. He too has a young daughter and his world was totally ripped apart. You don’t plan for life changing events, but please accept the love and support around you and trust me, that in time it will never go away but it will ease. You will have so many questions that you will be asking yourself, questions that no one will have answers for.

    For many people they don’t talk. You are writing down your feelings and sharing. I wish my brother had been able to do the same – however, he’s now doing ok. I hate the words moving on because that’s not what we do. We start to make new memories and never forget but we have as a family, learned to celebrate different events for his daughters memories for her future – if that makes sense.
    I’m not very good at writing and I hope my words mean something. Keep your chin up and keep writing. You are an inspiration *hugs to you and your family*

  30. Simon,
    Reading your blog is like someone writing about me. I really feel where you are coming from. My wife passed on Christmas night 2017, just a few short weeks ago.

    Our situation was different. She was in end stage kidney failure, she’d had heart surgery and several operations on her bowels. The most recent of which almost killed her. But every time, she fought through. Maybe the recovery left her a little weaker than she had been, but she beat the medical conditions and kept on going.

    I thought this time was going to be the same. A couple of weeks in hospital after an angina attack to recover, then life would go back to normal. Which is to say, dialysis three times a week and the usual rounds of doctors appointments and whatever else needed to be done.

    While your wife was taken from you in a sudden and cruel way, I knew long in advance that the day was going to come. But nothing prepares you for it.

    1. I am sorry to hear that too, Steve. I agree, nothing compares you for it. Going through all the agony of surgery, chemo, hospital, the kids terrified of what’s wrong with mummy, seeing oncologists – terrified of that they might say….. it’s like you are in a skidding car, bracing for the impact. You think you have braced yourself, but the crash is so much harder than expected when it comes.
      God bless you Steve and Simon. I am four years down this painful road now and the pain subsides in time. But it leaves a scar.
      Hang in there and you will pull through. If you guys want to speak to me I am happy to help in any way I can.

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