As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to tell you the story of Mother’s Day without a mother, and a charity that is doing so much to help children of our serving Armed Forces.
Mark Every, 42, lives in Marham, North Norfolk, with his two-year-old son Joseph. He lost his wife Joanna to cancer six months ago.
Joanna and Mark met while they were both serving in the Royal Air Force at Marham, North Norfolk, in 2002. She was 21 years old and joining her first operational Squadron in the RAF, while he had travelled all over the world as a military engineer. They served in many countries together, including Afghanistan
In 2009 Mark proposed and the couple were married in Rutland near Peterborough. Two years later Joanna fell pregnant with their first child, Joseph, who was born on June 22, 2011. Joanna suffered a significant injury during Joseph’s birth which left her incontinent and with ongoing health issues. In 2013 they received the devastating news that she has been diagnosed with rectal cancer and required intensive chemotherapy. In May last year it was discovered the cancer had spread to Joanna’s lungs.
“She was very stoic. She was young and a strong fighter,” said Mark. “If she did know [she was going to die] she didn’t let me know.”
During her last few weeks Mark, Joanna and Joseph enjoyed one last celebration – Joanna’s birthday and Joseph’s Christening- and had one last day out together at Silverstone Grand Prix with Joanna in a wheelchair last June.
She passed away two weeks later on July 11 at the age of 32.
Joanna saw her son for the last time on the Sunday before she died.
“She gave him a hug. She was lucid enough to speak and say goodbye to him before I took him home. The end came quickly: she was doing really well but when she started going downhill it happened really fast.”
Mark says he has found it difficult to adjust to life as a single dad and learning how to cope with his toddler’s grief.
“Joseph has certain signs of regression with his speech. It went back to how it was when his mum was alive, which was picked up as a sign of bereavement. But overall he’s coping as best a toddler could,” said Mark.
“He’s only two, and you have no idea really what’s going on in his mind but he just knows we don’t go to hospital to see mummy anymore.”
He received a boost late last year with the offer of help from Scotty’s Little Soldiers– a charity set up to help children who have lost a mum or dad serving in the Armed Forces. The charity’s founder Nikki Scott got in touch with Mark after he advertised for babysitting help. Joseph has now been made a member of Scotty’s, and can take part in the activities and weekends away that are organized by the charity to offer support during the grieving process.
“With Scotty’s it’s all about putting a smile back on the kids’ faces. We want to try and get him involved with activities, and it would be nice to take him away and get him involved in group activities,” said Mark.
Mark says the one day he’s nervous about is Mothers’ Day, as it will be their first year without Joanna and more difficult than Christmas and birthdays when there is other family around.
“It’s a sad day for my little one, I feel more pain for him than myself,” he said.
For full information, including how to join Scotty’s band of Little Soldiers and how to donate to a really great charity, go to www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk