Widow waits for husband’s funeral 6 months after death
DISPLAYING their wedding photo was just another task on the one-day list, but now the memento takes pride of place in Janice James's home.
The North Eton widow lost her childhood sweetheart earlier this year, just four days before she and Ashley would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
"He was always there, he was a good mate," Mrs James said.
"He was real special really.
"We knew one another all of our lives."
Ashley died on March 31 after developing chest infection pneumonia.
He had been driving machinery on the Thursday and was gone by the Tuesday, Mrs James said.
She said it felt sudden at the time but looking back, it "probably wasn't".
"We were thinking it was the cancer back, you see," she said.
"He'd had a cancer operation in 2016 on his tongue.
"They told him because he was category four when they operated … they said, 'It will come back'.
"He had an appointment with the cardio guy (back in November); he told me when he came back with a smile on his face that the cardio guy said he 'didn't have long to go.'
"And I thought he was having me on because he used to do that.
"It's only since he died that I remembered it again and thought, he did mean it."
He'd also had atrial fibrillation which affected his heart rate, she said.
Mrs James said she couldn't spend much time with her husband during his final days - he was in hospital when it was on high alert at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.
"He was in ICU," she said.
"They were afraid that I might have (coronavirus)."
But after the hospital rang on the Sunday to tell her his condition had declined, she sought the support of a close family friend and raced in.
"It didn't even occur to me that he would die," Mrs James said.
"I'd just presumed they would get him better.
"I'd taken clean clothes in (on the Saturday) for him to come home.
"I can't even remember what we said to one another.
"We were talking about the golden wedding (anniversary).
"I said I would go and order a golden cake because he felt like a cake."
Meanwhile, Ashley had posted a farewell message on Facebook - something Mrs James didn't know at the time.
He died in hospital on the Tuesday afternoon.
His ashes now rest in an urn behind the family photos.
Mrs James hasn't yet organised a funeral because at the time of his death, only five guests were allowed to attend.
"How do I say, well who can come?" she said.
But she said her husband wouldn't have wanted her to "mope" after him.
She still plays back a three-second recording of his voice answering the phone that was given to her by Telstra.
"And I've got a Pocket Trader there and I say to people, 'I'm not throwing that away as that's the last time he wrote something'," she said.
Holding the last ever photograph of Ashley - fishing as he liked best - Mrs James said their marriage was about give and take.
"Sometimes I wasn't happy about what he was doing, and sometimes he wasn't real happy about what I was doing, but you worked it out," she said.
But cleaning out the shed still inspired a growl at him, she said with a laugh.
This story was thanks to the My Town series - a Daily Mercury and Mackay Regional Council initiative.
Next up, reporter Heidi Petith will visit the Kuttabul and Calen area from 11am to 1pm on Tuesday, October 20 alongside Mackay councillors at Zarby Cafe, Mt Ossa.
Let us tell the stories that matter to you and if you think we should come to your town, send us an email to email@example.com