When Rupert met Lucy, he knew immediately that life had changed. Here, he shares his story of love and loss, and explains the touching difference your support made to his young family.
I met Lucy in a nightclub in Camden in 1997, when I was 27. She had bright, sparkly eyes and looked like she was having the time of her life on the dance-floor. We got talking and just clicked. She gave me her phone number at the end of the evening and I ignored my friend’s advice to play it cool… I phoned her the next day! There was something between us I hadn’t experienced before. We moved in together six months after we met.
Lucy was very funny and had a brilliant, loud laugh. She was a keen swimmer and quite the adventurer; when we met she was the manager of two outdoor equipment shops… To this day my garage looks like a camping showroom! She was also the most artistically talented person I knew; she’d make beautiful textiles including her own clothing and bags. She was creative in other ways too: she’d invent her own delicious baking recipes, fill sketchbooks with drawings, and as Christmas approached – a time she absolutely loved – she’d stay up until 2am perfecting homemade cards. I was in awe of her.
After two years I was offered a job as a Graphic Designer in the Caribbean. There was no way we were going to turn down living in Antigua! Lucy took the opportunity to start selling her clothing out there and we’d spend evenings swimming in turquoise water, feeling so lucky.
Soon after returning from Antigua our daughter, Milly, was born, and Noah completed the family in 2010. Lucy was a wonderful mum – she showed me how to do everything! We moved to Sussex and she filled the house with laughter and fun: playing games, dancing around the living room and baking with Milly. She took both kids to swimming lessons and they now love the water, just like she did.
When Noah was 15 months old, Lucy was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a huge shock, but in true Lucy spirit, she was brave, determined and stoic. Thankfully, after gruelling treatment, she got the all clear and as a family we focussed on enjoying the present and taking nothing for granted.
In August 2013, whilst on a camping trip, Lucy started to feel unwell. her cancer had returned with aggression that surprised even the oncologists. Following a spell in hospital, Lucy was referred to St Peter & St James Hospice, which was a refreshing change. Where the hospital environment had been intimidating for Milly and Noah, the hospice felt more like a home from home. We had a private room and were able to spend time in the woodland and with the donkeys. The team managed to get Lucy’s pain under control and made her comfortable enough that she could sit in bed knitting and chatting to us. I believe Lucy lived longer because of the expertise, compassion and quality of life she experienced there, and I am forever grateful. Extra minutes with someone you love are worth a lifetime.
Lucy was bold, adventurous, strong and caring, my brilliant friend and wife
In October that year, with me at her side, Lucy died peacefully, aged just 38. I was devastated and took up the bereavement counselling I was offered soon after. To talk things through, facing difficult emotions early on, helped me accept and understand what was happening. The counselling helped me cope during the darkest days of my life. I’ve recently produced a film about our experiences, called An Island of Grief.
Six years on, there are still challenges, but we move through them. Lucy is very much part of our lives. The children have the same loud laugh, Milly, Noah and I swim in the sea, we picnic under the silver birch tree where Lucy’s ashes are buried, and we go on camping adventures she’d have loved. At weekends, we often make pancakes from Lucy’s recipe, and this Christmas, we’ll hang the decorations she made on our tree. Grief never leaves, but we have found a way to move forward. We have found joy again.
One of the first things I said to Lucy was that her name, Lucy Lyons, sounded like a great heroine from a book. She lived up to her name; she was bold, adventurous, strong and caring, my brilliant friend and wife. Even knowing all I know now, how it was to lose her, I wouldn’t change a thing.