At the age of 18, I lost my mum to lung cancer. She was a massive role model in my life, and this hit me, my dad, and my sister really hard.
When you’re 18, your brain is all over the place. With college life, nightlife, and spending most of my time with my friends, I was understandably devastated, but I had plenty of distractions to keep my emotions together. A couple of my close friends had also lost a parent around the same time, so you felt like you were in it together. I’ve grown up with the best group of pals life could wish for; most of us have known each other since junior school, secondary school, or college, with a few exceptions along the way, and we are still just as close to this day. We are friends that have each other's backs no matter what.
The months and years that followed were primarily spent partying. Being out clubbing four and five times a week seemed to be my priority, with alcohol, narcotics, and nicotine on the menu most long weekends. However, this natural tendency has a cost, and I was spiralling into major financial difficulties, complete with hangovers and comedowns. Don't get me wrong: We had a lot of fun and some good laughs, but I think I was just masking my emotions. I don’t recall suffering from depression, I was probably too busy chasing a good time to think about it or just looking to get my next kick. I was one of the lads, preoccupied with everything life had to offer and obsessed with not missing out!
Looking back, with all this to contend with, I made a ton of mistakes! I said and did things I regret; lies would easily roll off my tongue when needed; I even hurt a few people along the way, and relationships would fail. So for a long time, these feelings sat heavy; the bad times were equally vivid as the good times.
I had a wonderful and privileged childhood growing up; my mum was a successful wildlife artist, selling art all over the world, but she had to work hard for it, spending lots of time in her studio. Fortunately, her studio was at home, so I was able to spend a lot of time with her, which was a true blessing in retrospect. My dad stepped into the role of being the man of the house, which he did superbly and always looked after us, making sure we had everything we needed and always taking us where we needed to be (Dad's taxi was the phrase). My old man has always been my best pal (even the best man at my wedding). He is such a kind, gentle person, whom I look up to and respect immensely. I’m very grateful for everything he has done for me over the years.
Me and my sister are soul mates (or "twin flames," as we call it), we have different dads, and there is an 18-year age difference between us, but our personalities are identical, and when we are together, we get on like a house on fire. Plus, she is also my Godmother, which speaks volumes. My sis and mom were super close too, and I have so many fond memories of the special times we had together.
When our mum passed away, natural my sis became the motherly figure in my life. She has always looked after me, often bailing me out of sticky financial situations. At the time, she lived in Birmingham and, similarly to me, was living life in the fast lane. I would be down to see her at least once a month, and we’d have some crazy nights out together, followed by staying up for hours on end reminiscing about our special mum.
My mum was such a hard worker, and she had a passion for making something of her life, choosing whatever skill she would need to use. She ran her own hairdressing studio while raising my sister, was spotted for her stunning looks, and also became a model for a time. My sister and I often joke that she would have hated becoming an older lady and was probably happy to go while she was still in her prime. Art was something she had always wanted to do and had worked at it gradually for years before making the switch and earning enough money to pursue it full-time. Over the years, she became more and more established and was respected for her talent all over the world. I often look at her paintings now and beam with pride.
One of the most difficult emotions is witnessing someone die from cancer. It isn’t a quick or sudden death, you literally see them deteriorating in front of you for months on end. The radiotherapy treatment changes their personality, and you inevitably know that their life is coming to a close. I guess you could say that I had time to grieve even before we had lost her.
Losing your mum is one thing, but I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to lose your partner, someone you expected to live out your life with. My dad found the weeks and months after my mum's death really hard and struggled to keep his emotions together. He went from living a happily married life, caring for his wife and son, to becoming a heartbroken widower. His only blessing at the time, was that he had an active social life with a large group of caring friends at both his tennis and golf clubs.
Later that year, my dad met a new lady who had also suffered a lot of heartache in a previous relationship. I can’t fully describe how this sat with me at the time, but many of my dad's family friends found this hard to come to terms with. What I do know is that it made my dad very happy again, and this was the important thing. They have been together ever since and make a special couple. I see it as one of life’s blessings; she is a beautiful person and has always been kind to me, and I’m truly grateful to her. She has two sons, who I treat like brothers. My dad often says how lucky he has been to have met the perfect person twice.
My family wasn't religious, and I don’t recall ever going to church unless for a wedding or funeral. However, I have always been a curious person, and I’ve often pondered the big question of, "Why are we here?" "What is our purpose?"
When I reached the age of 25, I met a girl who would help me change my life forever. She is one of those people who is beautiful on the inside and out. I knew straight away that I needed this relationship to work, and in order to do so, I needed to start making some big changes, which I did. For the first time in my life, I was being honest and confiding in someone about my mum, my addictions, and my finances. This may seem like a very typical thing you would do in a new relationship, but the interesting thing for me was that this person was a Christian, and little did I know at the time that this would impact my life in far more ways than one. Her parents have always been kind to me from day one, and I get along with them both so well and really value our relationship.
Her family went to church on a regular basis. I would go along, but I wasn’t very interested, and I felt like I was only showing my face for her. I didn’t fit in, and I didn't particularly understand it. In my mind, I was one of the lads, and being in church didn’t feel right for me.
My relationship was blossoming, and we moved in together almost right away. After a couple of years, I knew I was totally in love and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this person, so I proposed, and we got engaged. All the reckless behaviour in my life was filtering away—I'm not saying I stopped being myself; I would still see my friends regularly for a laugh and a night out, but I felt guided down a straight and narrow path, and I was reaping the benefits of it.
Like anything in life, the more you commit yourself to something, the more you grow into it. As the weeks and years rolled on, I continued to go to church, and eventually my feelings towards it changed. I started reading the Bible and watching Christian films to get my head around it all, and it was beginning to make some sense.
My partner could tell my faith was flourishing, and we’d had a few conversations about me getting confirmed as a Christian before we got married. It all seemed a little overwhelming at the time, but I knew it would mean a lot to my partner, so I agreed to go ahead with it. As part of the process, our church vicar visited me at home, and we discussed what becoming a Christian was all about. I remember being very inquisitive and asking lots of questions. I was extremely gripped, and it all felt very real.
Around the same time I met my girl, my sister was about to embark on her own life-changing adventure. She and her husband made the decision to move to the Dominican Republic. Leaving their old life behind and giving themselves a fresh start with new meaning, albeit a little further afield than Birmingham for us to see each other, we still communicate every day, and I get the pleasure of visiting the Caribbean most years. Together, they have built a business from scratch and are living a wonderful life in paradise. I’m so proud of what they have both achieved.
I’m extra proud of my big sis, who has also climbed onboard the faith train in the last few years and has embraced it wholeheartedly.
My sister's husband is one of the most fascinating people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and has done so much with his life. Interestingly, he is also a devoted Christian. There are certain people in this life that are sent to guide you on your journey, and I truly believe he is one of them for me. He is such a fair, kind, and generous man who works hard and plays hard. He has taught me so much and has helped my faith grow immensely; I can’t thank him enough.
It turns out, my brother-in-law spoke at great length with my mum when she was in her final days, and I was delighted to find out that she was reaching out for Jesus before she died. I have no doubt that she will be working her magic on both me and my sis from the Heavens above, and I can’t wait to see you, old girl, when my time comes.
It was a surreal evening at a church that I hadn’t been to before. It certainly felt like a big occasion, as the service was held by the Archbishop of York. Some of my close family and friends came along for the support, and I was very proud to have gone through with it. From that day forward, everything felt different. I felt like I had reached a watershed moment in my faith; I was praying and reading the Bible on a daily basis, and I was growing in wisdom. I had a thirst for learning more and attended a number of courses, I was learning how to cope with fear, rejection, anxiety, depression and dealing with the regrets of my passed. Most importantly, it was teaching me how I could become a better person, and I felt like I had a true connection with Jesus, who had "saved me" from the wayward path of my youth.
When I say "saved me," you can only truly know what I mean when you let Jesus into your life wholeheartedly. You realise that life on Earth is only the beginning and that you can earn your way into the Kingdom of Heaven. It isn’t about becoming super religious or attending church every week; it’s about making a commitment to having a relationship with Jesus while living and respecting his commandments.
One tip I would give anyone thinking about believing in Jesus, is don’t think you have to know the bible from cover to cover nor do you have to go to church every week, you can simple have a relationship with Jesus right from your bedside if you so wish. Everything else will come in time.
On Christmas Eve 2012, I had the pleasure of marrying the girl of my dreams. We were brought together under God’s watchful eye to bond our relationship in holy matrimony, a commitment that I will cherish, and I vow to take care of her till death do us part. It was a fabulous day full of love and celebration with an air of Christmas magic.
We have just had our 10-year wedding anniversary, and we are just as in love now as we were then. Life has had plenty of ups and downs, but we work through them as a team. We are open and honest with every detail of our relationship, and this definitely makes us stronger.
God has blessed us with an amazing son; he is such a special kid who we love with all our hearts. I’ve also had the pleasure of guiding Jesus into his life from an early age, and I can’t wait to see him grow into a fine young man. He has two sets of amazing grandparents who are all playing their important roles in loving and caring for him while also moulding his character, which I can’t thank you enough for.
Coping with Life
Life is full of obstacles, challenges, and circumstances that are often out of your control. People will disappoint you from time to time! They will lie, cheat, steal, act jealous and greedy, and say hurtful things. It can be very hard to know how to respond when you are in these situations. Being a Christian doesn’t erase them, but it does help you regulate your emotions and be able to pray for those who act in anger so you don’t lash out in retaliation. The Bible has taught me that the tongue can bring evil and destruction if you don’t control it. I list the negatives purely because, if you can learn to be resilient in these circumstances, you will reap the benefits of life’s good times.
We have formed some amazing friendships over the years with some amazing people: friends growing up, friends through friends, friends at work, friends from our son’s school, and neighbours alike. Life is about surrounding yourself with people that you love, people that share your interests, and people that can understand you for who you are. People who can’t and are intent on bringing you down need to be removed from your situation.
Proverbs 13:3 “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin."
We are all gifted with some form of talent, something that we are good at, and we should all aim to use it to the best of our abilities and not let it go to waste. I have been blessed, like my mum, with a passion for all things creative. I've used my talent to put this website together so fellow Christians far and wide can share their stories like this one, in the hope of potentially guiding faith into people's lives or at least bringing some perspective on life.
I’m also extremely proud to have published my first book, Angles & Angels (check it out here), I love typography and wanted to create a coffee table style book that visually shares the contents of the Bible and how it effects and relates to our thoughts and emotions. Not only the sheer moments of joy and happiness, but also the signs of darkness that are ever present on this earth. It acts as a quick read, first aid kit for many scenarios in everyday life.
Ephesians 2:10 "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
I've recently turned 40. I’m still very close with all my friends, I work hard, I weight train daily, I love designer clothing, sport, violent films and having a good drink. I’m still the same person I have always been; I just now have a passion for Jesus and understand my purpose! The moral of my story is: don’t be afraid to answer the door whenever faith comes knocking because it will only change your life for the better.
When you lose someone so dear to you like your mum, you realise how precious time can be.
Each to their own in this life, but this works perfectly for me.