Nigel and his partner Lesley met in the saddest of circumstances, following the death of Lesley’s husband Graham, and Nigel’s partner Madeleine. However, they would never have connected if it wasn’t for the Covid-19 pandemic and a St Clare Hospice Bereavement Café zoom call, where they first set eyes on each other… on screen.
Nigel explains, “Within weeks of Madeleine’s diagnosis of a brain tumour in January 2019, we knew we only had about a year together.”
As the financial director for Daniel Robinson & Sons Family funeral directors, Nigel says he was very much, “a process person”, so a timeframe for him, helped him and Madeleine make the best of the time they knew they had left together.
When Madeleine was admitted to St Clare Hospice in Harlow, Nigel was able to spend all his time there. He found great comfort in the extraordinary lengths the St Clare Hospice staff went to, to enable the two of them to be together, by bringing in a larger bed, so they could sleep side-by-side, right to the end.
By the time of Madeleine’s funeral in March 2020, all the Covid-19 restrictions were in full swing and the St Clare bereavement support services had gone online.
Lesley’s husband Graham was diagnosed with prostate cancer just before Christmas in 2018. His prognosis was that they had possibly ten years together, but in fact, sadly they had less than two.
Lesley explains, “Like lots of men, Graham didn’t feel he had time to go to the doctors. His diagnosis when it came, gave me a physical reaction, it was like a punch in the stomach. The doctor’s words were, “If you ask me if you’ll be around in 5 years I’d say yes, in 10 years probably,” which was different for Nigel as he was told Madeleine only had a year. With Graham we felt we could carry on living for a little bit and so we did.”
Lesley added, “Graham’s prostate cancer spread to his bones and he died in September 2019 from a broken leg which he couldn’t recover from as he had undergone chemo only two days before.”
“After he died I kept busy with my grandchildren and friends. I’d put my name forward for a Bereavement Café which was to be held in a local coffee shop and organised by the local vicar and his wife. Incidentally, she was the Chief Executive of St Clare Hospice! Then in March 2020, the pandemic hit so both Bereavement Cafés were put on hold.”
“Later, when the Bereavement Cafés went online, I decided to join. I felt they would give me support from like-minded people which was difficult to get due to the pandemic.”
Meeting at the Bereavement Café
Nigel and Lesley ended up on the same Bereavement Café Zoom calls. Nigel recalls, “Sometimes I just couldn’t be bothered to join. Like a typical bloke, I’d just open a beer and watch the match on the telly. But after a while, after I’d been on the calls, I began to look forward to seeing Lesley there.”
Lesley had also begun to realise that she looked forward to seeing Nigel on the calls. “I was becoming more disappointed when he didn’t join the group.”
At the beginning of 2021 Nigel had become quiet and rarely attended the Bereavement Café group Zoom calls. It had been Madeleine’s birthday in December. He had scattered some of her ashes on New Year’s Day and then again on the anniversary of her death in March. Lesley knew it was the anniversary and privately messaged Nigel to show support and check he was ok.
“I was burying myself in my work” explained Nigel “and when Lesley messaged I was in at work – on a Sunday! I replied and asked Lesley if I could call her. I’d written a few things down as to what to say to Lesley, one of which was whether she would like to come out for a walk?”
Over the next few months Lesley and Nigel went walking, and as the restrictions lifted, they went for meals, trips and to concerts – love blossomed.
Lesley added, “We are both soppy and we do say we are lucky to have found each other. Because of our past, we both know how the other feels about losing someone. We have that connection.”