Derek Whitaker, 82, did his National Service in the RAF from 1954 to 1956 as a Radar Operator. He met his wife-to-be, Mary, when he was just 16 at a dance hall and they married the day after he turned 21.
Derek and Mary were regular visitors to Princess Marina House, our home on the south coast, after Mary had a massive stroke in 2006. Derek was determined not to put Mary into a respite home and their visits to Princess Marina House not only gave the couple a break but allowed Derek to have time alone from the pressure of being a full time carer. In this guest blog, Derek tells us why Princess Marina House holds such fond memories for him.
I found Princess Marina House on the internet about eight years ago, quite by accident, after my dear wife Mary had a massive stroke and I became her carer. What a blessing I discovered such a wonderful place!
The welcome and care we had and my freedom to have a couple of hours to go for a walk, knowing Mary was in safe hands, was wonderful.
After that first night I said to Mary, "Thank God love, I'll never have to put you in respite again". I had put Mary into respite twice, just for a five-day break.
I'd wave goodbye on those occasions and, as soon as I was out of Mary's sight, I cried like a baby.
I hated leaving her but had to do it on advice from both my doctor and family who saw how exhausted and stressed I had become.
Since that first visit we became regulars and we both loved every minute of our time at Princess Marina House.
Due to being diagnosed, in 2011, with Bronchi Ectasis and Yellow Nail Syndrome (the latter rare but associated) I found it very difficult to look after Mary adequately. I had no choice but, very reluctantly, to resort to employing a carer to help morning and evening.
It was a terrible shock, on 27 February 2013, when Mary was suddenly taken ill and I had to call our doctor.
The result was Mary was taken to hospital that evening and we were told to expect the worst and, should the question of resuscitation crop up, we were strongly advised not to do it.
I had expected to bring her home in a couple of days – you can imagine how devastated we were when we couldn't.
Leaving our daughter Linda and son Neil with Mary, I went home to get what I would need to stay the night.
Mary was noisy and delirious most of that night and we had little sleep. Linda, Neil or me were with her all the next day and I, of course, stayed the night. Just before midnight the next day she passed away peacefully. She looked so at peace, positively serene.
While being so relieved that Mary died peacefully, and I was with her at the time, it is so very hard to lose my life partner so soon after her 82nd birthday.
We had a wonderful hotel party with family and friends for my 80th birthday on 5 February, the next day was our 59th wedding anniversary and, just 22 days later, my dear Mary died.
You can understand why Christmas 2013 was a nightmare for me. I was with my family on Christmas Eve (Mary's birthday) and on Christmas Day but after that I wanted to be on my own because I was just bad company and didn't want to spoil Christmas for the young people. That may seem strange but it's what I needed and I don't regret it at all.
Christmas 2014 I was so fortunate, via a cancellation, to visit Princess Marina House; such a relief! I had a fabulous time, treated the lovely people at my table to a drink on my Mary's birthday and we drank a toast to her. Linda and Neil visited me and they said: "We now know, Dad, why you go nowhere else for your holiday!".
I get such a lovely greeting from the staff when I arrive at Princess Marina House, quite a few remembering my Mary, and I always meet someone I've met before. Thank you so much Princess Marina House.