St John Greene Mum's List

ISBN 13: 9780718158330

Mum's List

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9780718158330: Mum's List

'Kiss boys two times after I have gone' 'Please teach the boys to say what they mean' 'Mummy loved orange Club biscuits, jam and jelly and lemon curd' On her deathbed, Kate Greene's only concern was for her two little boys, Reef and Finn, and her loving husband, Singe. She knew she'd be leaving them behind very soon. Over her last few days, Kate created Mum's List. The couple talked and cried together as she wrote her thoughts and wishes down, trying to help the man she loved create the best life for their boys after she was gone. It wasn't the first time Singe and Kate had faced the spectre of death. Four years earlier, doctors discovered a large lump in baby Reef 's abdomen. Kate, pregnant with Finn, was so distressed that she gave birth dangerously early. Both boys pulled through, but afterwards Kate received the diagnosis that every woman dreads . . .

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About the Author:

St John Greene grew up in the West Country, where he met his teenage sweetheart, Kate. A qualified medic and lifeguard, St John, known to his friends as Singe, founded Training Saints, which specializes in teaching outdoor activities and helping people gain qualifications and careers in the maritime industry. Since Kate's death Singe has devoted his life to raising their two young sons, Reef and Finn. He spends all of his free time teaching them the things he loved to do with Kate: sailing, scuba diving, jet skiing and power boating near their home in Somerset. Mum's List is his first book, and is the basis for the film of the same name.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

“What d’you want to drink?” my brother asked.

He was standing at the bar, smiling, clearly pleased to see me. I instinctively looked over my left shoulder, turning to Kate.

“What d’you fancy?” I asked her.

It was noisy in the nightclub, and lights were flashing all around us. I could see Kate’s outline against the backdrop of disco lights and dry ice. She looked beautiful in the half-light, but then again Kate always looked beautiful. Her pale-blue eyes twinkled back at me, and I felt her squeeze my hand. A split second later I felt a squeeze around my heart, and I knew.

Kate wasn’t actually there beside me. It was just a shadow of her, a hazy illusion of what I desperately wanted to see. I was so used to having Kate at my side that my mind had played tricks on me.

I felt my face flush as I turned back to my brother, who was staring at me, open-mouthed.

“Oh my God, Singe, are you all right?” Matt asked nervously.

It was his girlfriend’s eighteenth-birthday party, and he’d been delighted I’d accepted the invitation so soon after Kate’s death. It was my first big night out with members of my family since losing her, and I wanted it to go well for everybody’s sake.

“Don’t worry, I’m fine,” I said, meaning it.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Don’t worry, I’m not going mad! Some habits die hard, that’s all. Let’s have a drink.”

Matt gave me a relieved smile, and I beamed back at him. It was good to see Kate again, I thought, though I didn’t say it out loud. She had died less than a month earlier, and seeing her was a little reminder of just how fresh my grief was and how much I missed her.

As I worked my way around the party, doing my best to put other people at ease who didn’t quite know what to say to me, I felt comforted by the fact that Kate was still so close to me. She was dead, but it didn’t mean she had stopped being a part of my life. How could she? She was my life, even though I now had to carry on without her.

I stood on my own for a while, watching the teenagers on the dance floor. They were so full of fun, just as Kate and I were at that age, and in fact for most of our lives together. The buzz in the air and the youngsters’ laughter made me remember our early dates. I pictured Kate in her teens, dancing in skin-tight jeans, without a care in the world. She looked older than she was and never had any trouble getting into the nightclubs, even at sixteen. She always strutted up to the doormen, giving a confident giggle and a wiggle that never failed to impress, and it was often me who was challenged about my age instead of her, despite the fact that I was five years older. Kate always looked stunning, and through the blinking lights and lasers I couldn’t see anyone but her on the dance floor. Her eyes were locked on mine, and I felt like I was the only other person in the room.

After we’d been clubbing, Kate and I would often take a midnight picnic up to Priddy in the Mendip Hills. I could see her aged seventeen, sitting on blankets under the stars, looking for satellites and listening to the choirs of frogs and insects. It was Kate’s favorite place in all the world. There was no light pollution, and the stars burned so bright it felt like we were inside a massive planetarium, just the two of us. I breathed in the smell of Kate’s perfume mingling with the sweet scent of damp grass, and we talked and melted away together for hours and hours.

The memory warmed my heart. Kate and I were soul mates, and we stayed that way for more than twenty years. How lucky was I? Looking around at the teenagers at the party, with all their lives ahead of them, I felt so grateful I had met Kate when we were both so young, and that we had had the chance to spend so many happy years together. That was something cancer could never take away.

Kate’s diagnosis took the wind out of our sails, to say the least. It came literally weeks after our little boy Reef’s own recovery from an incredibly rare and aggressive form of cancer, and so it felt even more unbelievably cruel and unlucky. I remember how I scrabbled around for positives. At least my feisty Kate would fight like a tigress, I thought. Reef had survived against far worse odds, so Kate would beat it too, no question. Reef’s cancer had left him with a slightly withered left leg, which upset his balance, but he had adapted remarkably well, and most people had no idea he had a disability. I knew Kate would show the same resilience, whatever cancer threw at her and took from her.

We’d always lived life to the max. We’d traveled the world and made the most of every day together. We had no regrets about the past, and that was a huge blessing. The most positive thing of all was that I knew for certain that, however ill Kate became, she would continue to squeeze the most out of every minute of every day.

As I begin to write this book, a year after losing her, I can tell you that Kate certainly didn’t let me, or the boys, down. She did us all proud until her dying day, and beyond. Even when she was desperately ill in her final few months she took the boys on trips to Disney World and Lapland and insisted on taking them to see the Snow White pantomime in Bristol just days before she died, even though getting her there in a wheelchair with oxygen tanks proved to be more of a pantomime than the show itself!

She also produced Mom’s List, which she added to right up until the end of her life. Kate wasn’t trying to be immortal and she’d have been humbled by the huge media interest it attracted, which led to people asking me to write this book. The list was for us, not for her, and it was I who unwittingly prompted her to write it when I cuddled her in bed and asked: “What if you leave me?”

Kate was a devoted mother and loving wife, and she wanted to give me a helping hand to make sure I raised our boys as best I could without her. When I read the final list after she was gone, I felt less alone. Kate’s spirit lived on, and I was so grateful to her for the massive effort she put into completing it on her deathbed. I still had a link to my fantastic wife and I took great comfort from that.

I think some people worried about the impact the list might have on my life. What if it made Kate’s presence live on so powerfully my grief would never end? What if it tied me to the past so closely I could never move on?

For me, there was never any doubt in my mind. Kate’s list was an incredible gift, no question. I felt sure it would guide me and reassure me and help me build a fantastic future for our boys.

I still have no idea how long it will take me to fulfill all of Kate’s wishes, or even if I ever will. Some may take a lifetime. Only one thing is certain. I am taking every step as best as I possibly can, in memory of my wonderful wife, Kate.



Chapter 1

“Kiss boys two times after I have gone” /p

“We made it!” Kate giggled. That giggle. That blonde hair. Those cornflower-blue eyes. I looked at my beautiful wife and laughed. She had a knack for making me laugh. Even just hearing that cheeky giggle of hers set me off. That day, once I’d started laughing I just couldn’t stop. I lay back in the wet sand and pulled Kate down with me, cracking up laughing. It reminded me of the day I proposed to her more than twenty years earlier. Then, I’d deliberately made her crash off her skis into a mound of powdery snow. I dived in on top of her and produced an engagement ring from my pocket. She giggled, and we kissed, just as we did now. Back then I laughed with relief that she wanted to be my wife, and with excitement at the prospect of spending my life with such an amazing woman. Now I laughed with relief and excitement again, but for different reasons.

I could feel worry seeping out of me, through my back and into the sand, and I felt a surge of joy and optimism about the future, something I hadn’t felt in a long while. A wave washed over our feet, and Kate and I shrieked and huddled tighter together. As the water ebbed away I felt the terror and the darkness of the past three years wash into the sea and drift away from me. The sun beamed brilliantly, shining light and warmth back into our lives.

We lay back on the sand, holding hands. I thought about how life had changed in so many ways for Kate and me; but in so many other ways it hadn’t. We had two children now, our precious little boys, Reef and Finn, but at heart we still felt like two giddy teenagers, on the lookout for the next adventure. Now, I felt sure, nothing could hold us back.

Propping ourselves up on our elbows, we watched the boys chase each other along the beach. It was summer 2008, and Reef’s fourth birthday was just weeks away. “We are very sorry, but Reef may not survive for more than a few days.” I remembered the shocking chill those words brought when he was eighteen months old, and we were given the devastating news that Reef had cancer. It felt like a bucket of ice had been tipped onto my chest, freezing my heart and crushing my lungs. When I tried to come up for air, I was winded with yet more unbearable news. Doctors warned that if he did survive, our little boy would be disabled. “We are very sorry, but Reef may never walk again.”

Thinking about it now was like remembering a script from a film or a story about somebody else’s life. It was incredible to think that the child we’d held close and cried over each time he needed a blood transfusion or another dose of chemotherapy was this same, carefree little boy running along the beach. He was our miracle.

I smiled at Kate. I could tell from the look on her face she was thinking similar thoughts. I was surprised by how young she looked, relaxing on the water’s edge beside me. The two lines I’d grown used to seeing carved deep between her eyebrows had melted into her soft skin. She looked like a girl again, like the carefree Kate I knew before our world was ruled by fear and worry and the aching, helpless sorrow you feel for a sick child.

“Look at Reef run!” Kate giggled. “He made it!” Even her voice sounded younger and freer. “We made it!” Her eyes were flashing the way they used to when we scuba dived on holiday. I always looked forward to the moment Kate pulled off her mask, because her face shone like a rainbow, as if she’d stolen the glittering scales and electric stripes from the tropical fish. That’s how she looked that day, lapping up the sight of Reef and Finn playing chase.

“Singe, it’s incredible. We’re so lucky.” I nodded and grinned. My old Kate was back. Lucky was not a word other people might use, but it was the word Kate chose that day, and it’s one of the reasons I loved her so much. Other people might have felt bitter or badly done by, but not Kate. She embraced life and always tried to look on the bright side.

“Can’t catch me, can’t catch me!” I heard Finn tease. My eyes flicked from Reef to his little brother. For a two-year-old Finn was an awesome little runner, and he was giving Reef a run for his money. Everyone said Reef was the thoughtful one like Kate, which I had to admit was true, but Finn was my “mini-me,” cheeky and sports-mad and boisterous. He was our miracle too. I remembered the moment I heard that Kate had gone into premature labor with him, and my chest tightened just as it had done when I answered the phone on the night of Finn’s birth. The discovery of Reef’s abdominal lump had sent Kate’s stress levels through the roof. Her contractions began as we waited for the results of tests to tell us exactly what sort of lump Reef had. Kate was just seven months pregnant; it was way too early for her to give birth.

Watching Finn scamper about on the beach, I thanked God that the madness of those hospital days was over. Both boys had been in danger of losing their lives. One in a special care incubator, one with cancer in his pelvis. What were the odds? What was the point of thinking like that? It was insane. It was only a couple of years before, but it suddenly seemed a lifetime ago.

I exhaled deeply, blowing out the memory of fear and anguish into the sea air. The boys were whooping and skipping without a care in the world, and I marveled at them. Friends nicknamed us “The Incredibles.” “You’re such an amazing family,” they told us, before and after our misfortune. In that moment, with Kate smiling by my side and our boys playing happily together, I felt it was true. We’d had our run of bad luck but we’d come through it smiling triumphantly. My family was truly incredible.



I recalled that sunny day when we sat in the car overlooking the pebbled beach at Clevedon less than two years later. Now it was January 20, 2010, and instead of sunbeams, dark-gray barrels of cloud pointed down from the sky. The boys were buckled into their car seats, and I decided to get in the back and sit between them. As I stepped out of the car I shivered as the wind bit my face. I wished I could push back the clouds and pull out the sun. I patted my coat pocket to make sure the bubble gum was still there. It was something Kate and I had talked about. The boys had been nagging us for ages to try some gum, and we’d both decided this was a good time to give them a treat.

“Boys, I have something really, really important and really, really sad to tell you,” I said, pulling them in close to my sides. I felt a little ear dig into my ribs on either side of my chest. My heart was thrashing around so wildly in there I was worried the sound of it might frighten the boys, and I took a long deep breath to try to steady the thud.

I’d picked the boys up from preschool and school and driven straight to our favorite spot near the beach at Clevedon, trying to keep things as normal as possible on the short journey. “How was your day?” I asked, immediately regretting the question. Whatever they said, it was going to get a lot worse. I don’t know what they replied; it took all my energy just to drive the car safely and pretend to be like any other parent picking up their children on a cold Wednesday afternoon.

This morning I’d written “Oh my God, my darkest hour” in my diary. Now this hour felt even darker. Reef and Finn listened intently, waiting for me to tell them the important and sad news. They were dressed neatly in their uniforms, and my heart went out to them. They were such good boys, always eager to please, and I instinctively gave them a little smile and ruffled their fair hair. I think I’d done a good job so far of hiding my feelings and I wished I didn’t have to tell them what had happened earlier that day. I wished I could be like other parents on the school run, chatting about friends or homework and telling the kids what they were having for tea. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it, so I just squeezed the boys tight for a moment while I tried to control my breathing and hold back my tears.

“Say what you mean,” I imagined Kate whispering gently to me. Her voice was soft and encouraging but it cut straight into my heart. I remembered her saying exactly the same words just a few weeks earlier, as she lay in bed writing her list. “I think it’s really important to say what you mean, and I want the boys to learn that,” she had explained, before writing instruction number four in her di...

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St John Greene
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ISBN 10: 0718158334 ISBN 13: 9780718158330
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Descripción Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2012. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. repr.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Kiss boys two times after I have gone. Please teach the boys to say what they mean. Mummy loved orange Club biscuits, jam and jelly and lemon curd. On her deathbed, Kate Greene s only concern was for her two little boys, Reef and Finn, and her loving husband, Singe. She knew she d be leaving them behind very soon. Over her last few days, Kate created Mum s List. The couple talked and cried together as she wrote her thoughts and wishes down, trying to help the man she loved create the best life for their boys after she was gone. It wasn t the first time Singe and Kate had faced the spectre of death. Four years earlier, doctors discovered a large lump in baby Reef s abdomen. Kate, pregnant with Finn, was so distressed that she gave birth dangerously early. Both boys pulled through, but afterwards Kate received the diagnosis that every woman dreads . Nº de ref. de la librería APG9780718158330

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St John Greene
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ISBN 10: 0718158334 ISBN 13: 9780718158330
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Descripción Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2012. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. repr.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Kiss boys two times after I have gone. Please teach the boys to say what they mean. Mummy loved orange Club biscuits, jam and jelly and lemon curd. On her deathbed, Kate Greene s only concern was for her two little boys, Reef and Finn, and her loving husband, Singe. She knew she d be leaving them behind very soon. Over her last few days, Kate created Mum s List. The couple talked and cried together as she wrote her thoughts and wishes down, trying to help the man she loved create the best life for their boys after she was gone. It wasn t the first time Singe and Kate had faced the spectre of death. Four years earlier, doctors discovered a large lump in baby Reef s abdomen. Kate, pregnant with Finn, was so distressed that she gave birth dangerously early. Both boys pulled through, but afterwards Kate received the diagnosis that every woman dreads . Nº de ref. de la librería APG9780718158330

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Descripción Penguin, 2012. Estado de conservación: New. A list created by Kate Greene, mother of two little boys, Reef and Finn, while she was terminally ill. This list was intended to help her husband, Singe, create the best life for their boys after she was gone. Num Pages: 352 pages, Illustrations. BIC Classification: VFJX; VFV. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 129 x 23. Weight in Grams: 236. . 2012. Paperback. . . . . . Nº de ref. de la librería V9780718158330

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Descripción Penguin. Estado de conservación: New. A list created by Kate Greene, mother of two little boys, Reef and Finn, while she was terminally ill. This list was intended to help her husband, Singe, create the best life for their boys after she was gone. Num Pages: 352 pages, Illustrations. BIC Classification: VFJX; VFV. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 129 x 23. Weight in Grams: 236. . 2012. Paperback. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Nº de ref. de la librería V9780718158330

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Descripción Penguin Books Ltd. Paperback. Estado de conservación: new. BRAND NEW, Mum's List, St John Greene, 'Kiss boys two times after I have gone.' 'Please teach the boys to say what they mean.' 'Mummy loved orange Club biscuits, jam and jelly and lemon curd.' On her deathbed, Kate Greene's only concern was for her two little boys, Reef and Finn, and her loving husband, Singe. She knew she'd be leaving them behind very soon. Over her last few days, Kate created Mum's List. The couple talked and cried together as she wrote her thoughts and wishes down, trying to help the man she loved create the best life for their boys after she was gone. It wasn't the first time Singe and Kate had faced the spectre of death. Four years earlier, doctors discovered a large lump in baby Reef 's abdomen. Kate, pregnant with Finn, was so distressed that she gave birth dangerously early. Both boys pulled through, but afterwards Kate received the diagnosis that every woman dreads . Nº de ref. de la librería B9780718158330

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Descripción Penguin Books Ltd 2012-03-01, London, 2012. paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Nº de ref. de la librería 9780718158330

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