Portadown man Lee speaks of dealing with grief a year after his wife Jade (28) died from cancer

A year after she tragically died just months after a cancer diagnosis, Jade Parker has been described as a guardian angel to her little boys.

She was only 28 when she passed away, days after getting married to the love of her life Lee.

It’s been a tough year for the young Portadown family.

Just a week before Christmas in 2019, Jade was told her cancer treatment was not working and she didn’t have long to live.

Lee and Jade Parker from Portadown.

She immediately starting organising her wedding to fiance Lee - and her funeral.

Sadly both were just a week apart.

Lee lost his wife on January 2 and, weeks after her funeral he ended up in hospital himself suffering from Covid-19.

Lee said: “It has been a character-building year. Not a whole lot you can do about it but grin and bear it.”

Ben and James Parker thrilled with the gifts Santa Claus delivered to their Portadown home.

He explained that the children Ben (aged seven) who goes to Millington Primary School and James (three) who attends Epworth Playgroup, don’t really understand what has happened.

“They know that their mum is their guardian angel. When I asked them if they knew why the 2nd of January is so important, Ben said no, but they know now. It’s when Mummy went to heaven. They understand that part. But I don’t think they understand loss. They understand that she is not here but they don’t understand the emotional thing behind it.

“They are still too young to understand grief thankfully.”

Lee feels like he has been doing ‘OK’.

Portadown couple Jade and Lee Parker with their sons Ben and James.

“I know when I had Covid last year, just after Jade died and my time in hospital helped me to grieve. It gave me time to sit and think. It gave me the opportunity to weigh up my options and how I am going to do things and approach things. Just try and get myself mentally right to do things.

“I gave myself that talking to. Right you have this time to grieve, then grieve and get your head around it and then everything else will fall into place,” he said.

Lee didn’t want his grief for Jade to define him. “I didn’t want to wake up every morning and cry. I have stuff to do here. If I feel the need to cry, then I will but it is all about getting into the right mindset but not pushing it to one side. It is dealing with it properly but not ignoring it.”

He said the children have kept him busy. “They are a great distraction. That’s what pains me the most. I have managed my loss. I know what I have lost. Regardless of anything I do in this world, nothing is going to bring Jade back. I have to carry on.

“I will always be up front and say I will always love Jade. She was taken from us. I will always honour Jade. She will always be a love of my life.

“The boys will always know who their mother is. That’s never going to change. It is always going to be that Jade was their mum.”

Lee said family and friends have been a great support over the past year. He said his employers T Knox and Sons Butchers in Portadown have been ‘amazing’. “They kept the job open for me even when they didn’t have to. They have been fully understanding of the situation.”

He further praised his employers and the boy’s school as he has to attend a lot of appointments since Ben was diagnosed with autism, to help him cope with it as well as helping Ben through his challenges.

“I am definitely a changed man from Jade got sick. You take your partner for granted, for companionship, just someone to sit and have a conversation with in the evenings. I am a lot more appreciative of life and who is in it.”

Lee has plans to honour Jade in the future, such as a parachute jump in aid of the Cancer Fund for Children.