Patrick’s life was torn apart three years ago, when Police knocked on the door at 2am. Fearing the worst for one of his sons, he found out his beloved wife, Diane, had died. She had a heart attack while driving home from a concert and drove off a bridge.
Patrick was in shock. “I had a small discussion with the police officers, telling them that my wife was at the Bon Jovi concert,” Patrick said.
“It was very sad that she was only half a minute from home when she had the heart attack.”
“It was three years ago and it feels like it was yesterday.”
The family was devastated by her death and lost their purpose.
“We’re on a ship and the mother is the captain and the mother steers the direction,” Patrick said.
“My two sons and I are the crew, running around to her orders. When we lost my wife, we were without direction,” Patrick said.
A friend saw he was struggling and suggested the CatholicCare Solo-Parents Ministry for young widows and widowers. “I was there at their very first meeting in Blacktown,” Patrick said.
The Younger Widowed Support Group meets on the third Tuesday of each month with facilitators Rita Chater and Philippa Ford. The group provides a safe environment for men and women whose spouses have died; to explore the challenges they face in their ongoing lives, while dealing with their own grief.
“They are very very good at their job, they listen very well and they have a lot of good things to say,” Patrick said.
“Sometimes there was a lot of tears, sometimes there was a lot of laughter. We always looked on the bright side, believe it or not. It was good to have a laugh and a joke.”
“It’s helped me open up. I’ve always been open but when my wife died I did close up a lot and I’m a lot better than I was three years ago and I’m sure it’s going to get a lot better as the years go past.”
“I’m very glad that I’ve gone there.”
After the tragic death of his cherished spouse, Patrick found some solace in his faith.
“I still go to Mass every Sunday, I feel much closer to her when I’m at Church.”
Fr Gerard O’Dempsey OFM Cap, Parish Priest of Good Shepherd Parish, Plumpton said the Requiem Mass for Diane.
“He did my wife’s funeral. He was very, very good. He is a very good priest.”
“I still can’t understand why she passed away and I’ll probably find that out when I go.”
“It’s God’s will in some things, which we don’t always agree on, but a year here is like the blink of an eye in heaven and I’m sure he’s got other things in the picture for us.”
Patrick’s parents Joan and Joe “are deeply Catholic and they’ve taught me a lot.”
“My parents live in Cundletown and my Dad is 92 and my Mum is 89 and they’re still married. Although they live in a Catholic nursing home, they’re still together and they’re still married. I look back at my wife and realise she’s missed out on half of life, if she lived to my father’s age.”
Patrick’s two sons were very close to their mother and the pain of her loss is strong. Diane died on December 15 and was buried December 20. One son’s birthday is close to the anniversary of Diane’s death. Christmas and other special days became reminders of their tragic loss.
“Christmas was very sad that year and his birthday was too,” Patrick said.
“I love the smell of pine tree, when putting up the Christmas tree, and this year they put a good hand into decorating it and years previously they just didn’t want to be there, decorating the tree,” Patrick said.
“We never forget her, of course, there’s a little candle burning in my house beside her photo the whole time.”
Patrick hopes others might seek help from hearing his story and tries to be grateful for what he has.
“I’m sure that there’s a lot more people out there who are worse off than us, as I tell my boys and if this can help one person, then that would be good.”
For more information about CatholicCare’s programs and services in the Diocese of Parramatta visit ccss.org.au.
Donations to this month’s Diocesan Works Fund Appeal will help to support the CatholicCare Solo-Parents Ministry. To make a donation to the DWF Appeal click here.