Read the touching love story of how two Bexhill care home residents met their wives and what marriage means to them

Bexhill nursing home Heatherdene laid on a romantic Valentines lunch for two residents and their wives.

Friday, 21st February 2020, 1:18 pm
Heatherdene Valentines event SUS-200220-103319001

The lounge was bedecked with hearts, petals, candles and the specially made music, such as Lady in Red, Frank Sinatra as well as some other classic love songs playing softly in the background.

Amber Gibson said: “The two couples’ combined years of marriage add up to a total of 84 years, so we took the opportunity to hear about their married lives before they enjoyed their lunch.

Michael, one of our dear residents, made his wife Patricia a Valentine’s card which she was very pleased to receive. The couple have been married for 31 years and their wedding anniversary was on February 3

Patricia spoke of how she met Michael: “My first husband collapsed one day at home. I panicked and rushed outside to get someone to help me. I approached a man and asked him to help. The man and his wife were a marvellous help to me.

“My husband had had a heart attack and sadly later passed away. But I didn’t get a chance to thank the couple who disappeared when the ambulance arrived. I later found out their names and sent a bouquet of flowers to thank them. We didn’t meet after that for about ten years, when we both worked for the council. We would see each other around the offices but I didn’t know he was divorced.

“He later came into the restaurant, told me he was divorced and asked me out for a drink. So, the first time I ever set eyes on him was the day my first husband died. But it was 10 years later that we were married.

“You can’t go through marriage without some ups and downs but Michael is such a patient man I’ve never met anyone so patient. His motto is anything for a peaceful life. We’ve been alright and I think it’s because we’re different that we got on so well.”

Sadly, Michael suffered a stroke in September of last year which meant him coming to Heatherdene Nursing Home. This no doubt changes things for any couple when they’re apart but Patricia didn’t let that phase her.

“Apart from one day over Christmas, I’ve visited Michael every day for the last eight weeks since he’s been here. Of course, I’d love for him to be at home it’s a big change not having him around after 30 years. But he’s being looked after properly and it’s nice for me to think that he’s in this cosy home.” Patricia also revealed that her and Michael had a great-grandchild born that very morning of Valentine’s Day.

Paul and Joan have been married for 54 years. And will be celebrating their 55 wedding anniversary on February 26.

Joan said: “”Paul was my first love. It all began when Paul was supposed to play football one day but he couldn’t because he had to attend a family wedding. It was arranged for my brother play in Paul’s absence. Unfortunately my brother broke his leg playing so Paul came round to see him at our house and that was it”.

“Paul was quite the romantic. He used to send me sweet little notes setting out the hours, minutes and seconds until he would see me again, bless him.”

Joan and Paul spent their working lives living together in Beckenham, Kent and latterly they moved to Bexhill where Joan retired and Paul continued working.

Paul was sadly diagnosed with dementia in 2007 and, although it developed slowly, it eventually caught up with him. Joan cared for him as long as she could at home but he eventually moved into a care home.

Joan said: “However, as our lovely daughter pointed out, her father has had a wonderful life and did everything he wanted to. We have some very happy memories with each other over the years, including our many trips to Sidmouth in Devon and the Lake District – a place we loved very much.”

Asked what Joan thought was the key to a happy marriage, Joan said: “Laughter – well, having a sense of humour and doing things together. Paul was a man’s man and would go to greyhound racing, manage football teams, and watch cricket and we socialised at the Sydenham Sports Club. Therefore, we had our independence but we were always there for each other; that independence has helped me now that Paul is in a nursing home, even though being apart is still very hard.

“Paul has lost the power of speech and use of his legs but he can talk with his eyes. I promised I would look after him always and I will. I’m so happy I can still be there for him. He has settled into Heatherdene and is happy and content and has a lovely room there and if he’s happy and content then so am I. He is my inspiration.”

Amber Gibson, from Heatherdene, said: “Both couples then enjoyed a lovely meal prepared by the home’s chef and even had a glass of Prosecco or two! It was so lovely that they could share their stories with us and a wonderful privilege for Heatherdene to give something back to these two happy couples.

“Paul was later brought into the lounge to join us and sat facing Joan and myself. While Joan was talking, Paul would slowly reach out and touch her face. They even managed to have a little dance together from their seats.

“It was also very touching to see such devotion, especially from Joan and Patricia, who continued to support their husbands and it was wonderful they could share this special day together.

“Despite their hardships, both Paul and Joan and Michael and Patricia have grown old together, happy and still very much in love. They demonstrated how love can truly stand the test of time.”