‘He’s beautiful,’ I breathed.
His eyes caught mine, and even though I was only 19, I just knew.
You might expect fireworks and trumpets when you see The One. Instead, I felt like I was at home.
After making eyes all night, I’d put down my plate, still half full with a huge serve of pork spit roast.
Suddenly, the handsome stranger was next to me.
‘Are you going to eat that?’ he asked.
‘No,’ I laughed.
As Josh, then 22, tucked into my leftovers, I knew we were perfect for each other.
In the Air Force, he’d recently returned from a stint in Afghanistan.
He was a bungee-jumping, skydiving, motorbike-riding thrillseeker who loved life.
Kissing that night, it was on – despite me living in Melbourne, and Josh being based in Newcastle, NSW.
Soon after, Josh came down for the weekend and we had a brilliant time.
But, back home, he called.
‘I’ve got to talk to you…’ he began.
It turns out Josh was six weeks into cancer treatment.
About to fly a mission, he’d had a huge seizure. After a tumour was removed, the results had come back as a grade 3 astrocytoma – a type of cancer that can form in the brain or spinal cord.
‘They’ve given me 12-18 months to live,’ Josh said.
Far out, I thought.
He probably thought he’d lost me. But I was in, no matter what. So we flew back and forth to see each other.
When his brown locks began to fall out from radiotherapy, Josh decided to shave his head.
But his clippers ran out of battery and he was left with a mohawk!
‘Lucky I met you before I lost my hair,’ he grinned.
A year came and went, then another six months – and Josh was still with us.
‘My use-by date, is now a best before!’ he would joke.
We always spoke candidly about death. But when we got engaged, it really hit me.
One day, I will lose him, I thought.
A year on, I married my soulmate.
Over the next couple of years, Josh had several seizures, but he’d always bounce back.
Eventually, we decided to try for a baby.
As Josh was on chemo, we had IVF and fell pregnant first go!
Jumping up and down, we screamed.
By now, it had been nearly a decade since Josh’s diagnosis.
He’ll probably outlive us all! I’d chuckle.
Then, when I was four-and-a-half months along, Josh went downhill – fast. Horrifyingly, a CT scan revealed his tumour had grown again, crushing his brain stem.
Busting him out of hospital for my 20-week scan, the sonographer wrote our baby’s gender on a card.
‘It’s a girl!’ Josh said later, chuffed to bits, before sticking the grainy image in pride of place on the wall of his hospital room.
Together, we called our girl Primrose, and spoke about what we wanted for her future, and how I’d raise her when we lost Josh.
‘Don’t be sad when I die,’ he said.
‘But that’s crazy!’ I exclaimed.
‘Will you come back and haunt me?’ I joked.
‘Yeah, alright – any time something annoying or frustrating happens, that’s me messing with you from beyond,’ he said.
Josh slipped away when I was seven and a half months along. He was just 31.
It was surreal…
Our daughter would never get to meet her superstar dad. And he was everything to me.
How would I ever comprehend losing the love of my life? I wondered.
Incredibly, I went into labour a few days early – on Josh’s birthday!
‘You’re ready to push,’ the midwife said.
Glancing up at the clock on the wall, suddenly, the minute hand started going around extra fast.
It was quickly replaced with a new clock to time my contractions, but that one did the exact same thing!
Josh! I thought.
He’d kept his promise.
I just knew my husband was in the room with me, helping to deliver our little girl.
When sweet Primrose was placed in my arms, she was the spitting image of her daddy. I felt Josh all around us – like he was watching out for his girls.
In April 2019, nearly two years after losing Josh, I met a beautiful man, BJ.
Patient and open, he wanted to know all about Josh and insisted we visit the cemetery as a family.
I know Josh would love BJ, but I still feel some guilt.
Watching Game of Thrones recently, I suddenly burst into tears.
‘I started watching this with Josh, now I’m finishing it with you,’ I sobbed.
BJ wrapped me in a hug.
Primmy, now two-and-a-half, is sassy, funny and curious. She has the same confidence and happy energy as her father.
We talk about Daddy Josh all the time.
I miss him every single day – but he lives on in our awesome girl.
Legacy supports Aussies after the injury or death of a spouse or parent, during or after their defence force service. Visit legacy.com.au