The heartbroken bride-to-be who was grieving for my groom on their HONEYMOON - after he was tragical
I spoke to Liz Wilson about the devastating loss of her fiancé Olly, who died after suffering a stroke shortly before they were due to marry. I shared her heartbreaking story in Take a Break to help raise awareness of Stroke #strokeassociation #takeabreak #sellmystory
Here, she tells her story:
"I sat down in the staff room and took a sip of my coffee, but nearly spat it out when my partner Olly got down on one knee.
‘What are you doing?’ I said.
‘Will you marry me?’ he said.
I looked at the beautiful diamond ring he was holding.
‘Yes, I will,’ I said.
Olly and I had only been together a year but there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that he was The One.
We had met when he got a job at the care home where I worked, and I’d heard him before I saw him. His loud affectionate laugh caught my attention in the corridor, and when I saw his warm smile, I got butterflies.
We got chatting and after several dates in Wetherspoons, our relationship blossomed and we became a couple.
Olly may have been 10 years older than me, but his fun-loving personality matched mine. He was like a big kid, always joking around and making me laugh.
When I told my parents, Valerie and Derek, that I was engaged, they were thrilled. They adored Olly as much as I did.
Soon after, we started planning our big day.
We chose a date that marked Olly’s dad’s anniversary, who had died of pancreatic cancer, and we booked the registrar, caterer, florist, and a stunning countryside hotel and golf resort for our venue.
We bought matching silver wedding rings, with a shiny band running through the middle, and spent an evening choosing our favourite songs on YouTube for the big day. We chose John Legend’s All of Me to play as our guests arrived and Chris De Burgh’s Lady in Red for our first dance.
Then I went wedding dress shopping with Olly.
‘Promise you won’t look,’ I said.
‘I promise,’ he said.
He waited patiently in each shop while I tried on hundreds of gowns in the changing rooms. I was close to giving up when I slipped into a white chiffon gown with floral lace detailing.
As I looked at my reflection, I beamed and nodded. This was the dress I was going to wear down the aisle.
Back home, I hung my new gown in its cover on the back of our bedroom door, hidden from Olly.
Months later, we started thinking about our honeymoon.
‘Where shall we go?’ I said.
‘I’d love to go to Disneyland Paris,’ Olly said.
‘Great idea,’ I said. ‘I love it there, so you will too.’
After that, we sent out our invitations and got more and more excited about becoming Mr and Mrs Brown.
Before we knew it, there were only two months to go.
One evening, I was cooking a stir-fry when Olly put a hand to his chest and frowned.
‘What’s wrong?’ I said.
‘My breathing is bad again,’ he said.
Olly had suffered with fluid on his heart for a few years, which sometimes gave him pain and affected his breathing.
‘Try and relax,’ I said.
After dinner, I ran him a bath.
‘It’s ready,’ I said.
Olly climbed in, then I noticed his right cheek was red and swollen.
‘Have you got toothache?’ I said.
He tried to reply, but his words were slurred.
He’s having a stroke, I thought.
As a care worker, I knew the signs.
‘Can you lift your arms?’ I said.
He raised his right arm but couldn’t lift his left.
Olly tried to pull himself up out of the bath and as he did, his legs gave way and he fell unconscious.
I pulled the plug out and called for an ambulance.
‘It’s my fiancé, he’s having a stroke,’ I said.
I tried to get Olly out of the bath, but he was too heavy.
Minutes later, a rapid response car arrived. The doctor couldn’t get Olly out of the bath either, so he phoned for help.
A team of paramedics turned up and I watched as seven men lifted Olly out, before he was flown to hospital by air ambulance. The doctor took me by car and I stared out the windscreen in a daze.
Seeing Olly in intensive care, hooked up to oxygen and a life support machine, was heartbreaking.
The nurse with him looked grave.
‘He’s not expected to last the night, I’m sorry,’ she said.
I sat by his side and touched Olly’s arm.
‘You’ve got to get up and do your funny laugh for me,’ I said.
His body twitched and the nurse thought he was responding. But I knew from my job it was an involuntary movement.
When a scan revealed Olly had suffered a massive bleed on the brain, I realised just how serious the situation was.
I broke down sobbing.
‘You can’t die, we’re getting married,’ I told him. ‘Please wake up, Olly.’
Days later, he opened his eyes.
I put my face close to his and gave him a kiss.
‘I love you,’ I said.
But there was nobody there.
It was like Olly was already gone.
Every day, I visited with his mum Julie and sister Jess, but there were no signs of improvement.
Then, after two-and-a-half weeks in hospital Olly’s health deteriorated, and the consultant phoned me.
‘Do you want us to switch off the life support?’ he said.
It was the moment I had been dreading.
The consultant had already explained that in the unlikely event Olly would survive, he would probably be paralysed and his memory badly affected. He wouldn’t even know who I was.
My mind flipped back to a conversation I’d once had with Olly, when he’d told me he would hate to live as a vegetable.
Julie, Jess and I all agreed, and I phoned the consultant back.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Do the necessary.’
Olly’s life support was turned off.
He was 44.
My dream of becoming Mrs Brown and spending the rest of my life with my soulmate was in pieces.
In my grief, I reminisced on the good times with Olly. His silly jokes, how he could make me howl with laughter, and him snuggling up to me on the sofa to watch our favourite program, Only Fools and Horses.
I wanted the memories to last forever.
When I looked at my dress hanging up, my eyes filled with tears. I was meant to be wearing it in just six weeks’ time.
I decided I would sell it. If I wasn’t going to get the chance to wear it, I wanted someone else to.
That week, I logged onto Facebook to upload a photo of Olly and wrote: In loving memory of Olly Brown…
Kind comments streamed in and with the help of my family, I phoned our wedding guests who weren’t on social media to tell them the devastating news. Then we called the suppliers to cancel all of the arrangements.
On the day of Olly’s funeral, I pulled on a red dress. It was both his favourite colour and the colour that represented stroke awareness.
Our family and friends were all in red too as they walked into the crematorium to All of Me, the song that was meant to be played as they arrived at our wedding.
As I listened to the words, tears streamed down my face. But I stuck on a smile as people passed on their sympathies and we said goodbye to Olly.
Afterwards, I kept some of his ashes in a locket and wore it on a chain around my neck, along with his wedding ring.
Back home, everything reminded me of Olly’s stroke and I couldn’t even step foot into the bathroom. So, days after the funeral, I moved to a flat in Warminster, Wiltshire.
Then the day of our wedding came around. I woke up thinking of Olly and he never left my mind all day.
My parents took me to the mall to keep me busy. It was a simple day, but I knew Olly wouldn’t have wanted a fuss.
The following week, I boarded a flight with Mum and Dad and we went on mine and Olly’s honeymoon to Disneyland Paris.
It may not have been the romantic getaway I’d planned, but I knew Olly would have wanted me to go. I pushed through my grief and tried to enjoy myself, imagining Olly next to me holding my hand.
I still can’t believe he’s gone. Just as we were getting ready to spend the rest of our lives together and start planning for a family of our own, my fiancé was cruelly snatched from me.
When I look at photos of him or watch Only Fools and Horses, I can hear his booming laugh in my head and it makes me smile.
Olly may not be my husband, but he will always be in my heart."