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.
Simon and Ethan