Saint Stephen’s Day

In the Christian calendar, today is known as Saint Stephen’s Day. In our house, it was my partner’s birthday, and – according to the doctors – his last.
Our friends on twitter (and believe me, you are true, good friends) will know that just over two years ago, my partner of twenty-eight years was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. I documented our long journey of despair, hope, despair and yet more hope on my blog. But despite the fantastic efforts of the NHS, on November 1st we were told that the extent of his cancer meant that active treatment was no longer an option, and so he has moved into palliative care.
I am not going to try and capture our devastation, or dwell on the dark days that followed and that I know are yet to come. Today I just want to mark his birthday and the contribution he has made to the world. He holds no awards, no titles; possesses no medals or great wealth. Yet my partner is a true success. Eighteen years ago, he gave up his career to bring up our two boys so that I could persue mine, and suffered all the isolation, stigma and setbacks that are typically endured by women. Partly because of this, my lovely, modest partner, is convinced that his life has largely been a failure.
Yet this morning, I asked my two boys to write for the last time in the birthday card we had made for their dad. Independently of each other, both wrote about his kindness, generosity and sense of justice, and how he has been and will be a role model and an inspiration throughout their lives.
My partner was named after Saint Stephen, and the more I read about his namesake, the more apt it seems. Not afraid to speak the truth as he saw it, according to the Bible, Saint Stephen was stoned to death for his views, whereupon he prayed for the Lord to forgive his killers. According to biblical legend, he was kind, strong and true, always thinking of others and never himself.
It appears to be in the nature of the truly good to forever put other people’s needs before their own. I keep begging my partner to be selfish in these final days: to tell us what he really wants so that we can ensure that he receives it. Yet as our wise palliative care consultant said, if you have failed to change him in twenty-eight years, you are unlikely to succeed now, so just embrace it.
Of course, she is right. But this all requires acceptance, a position we are still struggling to reach. That old bugger hope will keep on raising its head.
In the meantime, please join me in wishing the father of my children and the love of my life a happy birthday, and pray that as in days of old, some miracle will come our way.

7 thoughts on “Saint Stephen’s Day

  1. I’m so sorry to hear this, our thoughts are with you. I’m certain that the real mark of achievement in life is if people remember you for your kindness, compassion and love. It is clear he is a wonderful man and my heart goes out to you all at this time. And, of course, I hope he has the happiest birthday possible.


    1. Thanks Ed, as ever you are very kind. Although I haven’t been on twitter, I occasionally pop in, and the tweets from you and mama crow always cheer me up. You have a lovely family and ethos, and wishing you all the good things you deserve Jo x


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