At the begining of November my sister Yvonne, rang me up and asked me if we would like to go to Jeff's (her husband) birthday party. I was a little surprised because they live in Oxford and we don't normally meet for birthday parties. But then she explained that it was Jeff's 60th birthday and she wanted to hold a surprise birthday party for him with all the family there.
I immediately said yes and looked forward to it.
Jeff's birthday was actually the 18th December but you cannot book anywhere because they are all booked up for christmas parties so she told us it would have to be in November, not December.
Jeff was a very popular man who would do anything for anyone, always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it. He would always laugh and joke with you about anything. He was always smiling, his life was perfect. Two lovely children and a lovely grandaughter, Keira and a lovely home he had worked hard to get.
This he did especially with my mum, Ruth and my stepfather Bruce. My mum is 78 and Bruce is 76, and they both have trouble with walking and are unable to do a lot of the things we take for granted.
When we all left home my mum and Bruce moved into a bungalow and it was yvonne and jeff who helped them move,taking all their belongings in their car and making sure they were settled. They had a small garden and it was Jeff who used to go around and see to it, because he loved gardening. Every sunday they were either at my mums or my mum and Bruce would go round to see them at their home. They never went a week without seeing each other. If they needed to see a doctor or had any other appointment it would be yvonne or jeff that would take them.
Yvonne had met jeff in 1972 and married in 1974. They have two children Dawn and Darren.
Dawn is 31 and she married a lovely man, Simon 2 years ago, they have got one daughter, Keira who is now 8 months old.
Darren who is 29 is still at home and he has been with his girlfriend, Donna, for 1 year, they are not planning to get married just yet as Donna is still at university.
Yvonne emailed us and told us she had arranged the party to be held on Saturday 24th November at the Old Bell Inn in Maidenhead. She had arranged a room for us all and said there was going to be 14 of us all together. Jeff is not one for parties as such so it was just going to be a meal and drinks.
We made our way to maidenhead on the 24th and went straight to our rooms. We were all asked to stay out of sight until yvonne and jeff arrive at the hotel.
Her daughter Dawn was keeping an eye out for them and when she saw them coming down the road in their car she rang us and asked us to go to the bar and wait for yvonne and jeff.
This we did, then we watched as they walked in and we all turned around and said HI Jeff.
His face was a picture. he couldn't believe what he could see. Myself and geoff, Bob and rosellen,(my brother and sister in law), Adrian, (Hes a friend from years back), Their daughter Dawn and simon, her husband, and their beautiful daughter Keira,their son Darren and his girlfriend Donna, Simon's mum and dad, and two friends they hadn't seen for years. Yvonne had found them and asked them to join them at the party. This they did willingly.
Jeff was overwhelmed and he became quite emotional. After half an hour or more he had settled down and yvonne told him that she had done it for his special birthday. They were of course loads of jokes going around, like getting his pension, yvonne helping him up the stairs etc.etc.
The night was wonderful, we had a few drinks and then went into the dining room for dinner.
We had a great time and yvonne had even made a special cake for him. Jeff loves gardening and he works for Oxford city council as a gardener. He goes around to all the pensioners houses and flats and he does their gardens for them. He loves this work and he himself has entered the Oxford Mail gardening competitions. He came second last year. His garden is like a palace.
Everything was great and the next day (sunday) we all went home, having enjoyed the weekend with Jeff.
Two weeks later I received a phone call from yvonne saying that jeff was in hospital.
Apparently that weekend jeff got up on the sunday complaining that his legs were weak and funny. He tried to go up the stairs but his legs gave way and he collapsed. Luckily Darren, his son was there and he helped him into bed. yvonne called the doctor. The doctor came but could not really explain what the reason was for this, he gave him some tablets and went.
The hours passed and jeff was no better, so yvonne called the doctor again this time the doctor sent him to hospital for test.
The tests came back and it was found that his own antibodies was fighting his own body. Yvonne explained that they were both bad a few weeks before and it only lasted a weekend. The doctors said that was the reason jeff's antibodies was still fighting, although not the virus, they had turned to fighting jeff's own body. The treatment for this was five days on a drip of antibodies. That would slow his anti bodies down and get him back to normal.
That was the monday.
I called yvonne on the monday and asked how he was,yvonne said he was fine but she was still a little worried about him as this is quite an uncommon thing to happen.
I told her that now jeff was in hospital he would be fine, as the doctors and nurses would now look after him.
Thursday afternoon we received a call from yvonne.
Jeff was seriously ill.
Then yvonne explained that jeff had been doing very well with his treatment but what nobody had anticipated was the brain haemorrage he had suffered.
He had had the haemorrage on Wednesday while still in hospital and they had operated on him and kept him on a life support machine.
Yvonne, like us, could not believe what had happened and she went to see the doctor and asked if the two illnesses had been somehow connected to each other.
The doctors said no, they were completely seperate illnesses.
No-one knew Jeff was going to have a brain haemorrage as he showed no sings of anything being wrong, by that I mean, no headaches, nothing. The peculiar thing about the haemorrage was it was in fact a most unusal haemorrage. The vein at the base of the skull had become 'departed' from the skull and it was that that had caused the haemorrage.
When the doctors explained this there was a silence for a while and then the doctors asked her if they could remove Jeff's brain, to test it. She was horrified of the thought of this and immediatley said no. The doctors asked her to think about this again and gave her time to consider it again. They explained that although they know what happened they don't know why it happened.
They explained that it was for research.
They said that when they had finished the research they would replace Jeff's brain and she could then bury him, this would take 6-8 weeks.
Yvonne found this so upsetting and said that she could not allow this because Jeff would have his memories.
On Thursday the doctors told yvonne that they must switch the machine off because jeff had died 24 hrs ago on the wednesday. Although officially, because he was on the life support machine he was still 'alive'.
Yvonne had their daughter Dawn and their son Darren with him when they switched the machine off.
He died peacefully at 3.45 p.m. thursday afternoon.
He was 59 years old.
The funeral was the 18th december, it would have been his birthday.
He was being cremated but yvonne had arranged to have a service for him in the small church where they had married and Dawn and Darren had been christened.
My other sister Lorraine who now lives in Australia was unable to come for the funeral.
However, lorraine belongs to a choir and she has made a demo tape which she sent to us a while back. This was played as they brought jeff into the church.
It was a lovely service but still no-one can believe what has happened. It is such a shock to us all.
Dawn and Darren have been a tower of strength to yvonne, I have never met such a close and loving family. We must not forget that yvonne has lost a loving husband and Dawn and Darren have lost their father.
We cannot believe that he was taken from us when he had worked so hard and was so happy.
The only thing left to say is:
Goodnight jeff, god bless.