Leanne Hill, 27, Park Ridge South, Qld
I'll never forget the look on my husband's face as I walked down the aisle. Although he rarely showed emotion, Ricki, then 27, had tears trickling down his cheeks. 'You look beautiful,' he smiled when I reached him. Could life get any better?
I'd first met Ricki at the local pub five years ago. He'd just moved here from New Zealand and I could tell instantly he was a kind and genuine guy. Having relocated from the UK four years earlier myself, we became friends. A few months later, Ricki asked me out and after that we were inseparable. No-one was surprised when, four years later, we decided to tie the knot.
Our loved ones flew in from all over the world to celebrate with us and I felt like the luckiest woman on the planet. We moved into a granny flat at the back of my parents Michelle and Eddie's house to save for a place of our own. Ricki and I had plans to buy our dream home and start a family. Then two months later, I was thrilled to discover I was pregnant. I knew Ricki would make an incredible father.
At the 19-week scan, we found out we were expecting a girl. Ricki proudly got to work, building a cot and change table for our little princess. In May this year, I was 38 weeks pregnant when I called my husband on my lunch break at work. He was getting ready for his night shift at a meat-processing factory. 'I'll do a bit of housework before I go,' he said. He'd been such a great help while I was pregnant, vacuuming and doing loads of washing. 'I love you,' I said before hanging up.
I knew he'd text me again on his way to work. But strangely, by 3pm I hadn't heard from him. Worried he'd dozed off, I gave him a call. No answer. Knowing Dad would be getting home shortly, I phoned him. 'Can you check on Ricki?' I asked. 'I think he's fallen asleep.'Minutes later, he called back in a panic. 'Ricki's lips are blue and he's unresponsive,' he panted while performing CPR. 'Phone the ambulance!'
My stomach lurched as I heard the horrifying words. My mind whirled. Ricki had sounded fine on the phone three hours earlier. How could this have happened? Fingers frantically shaking, I dialled Triple-0 and told them what little I knew. Then, clutching my swollen tummy, I raced to the car. The traffic was horrendous and with each passing minute panic rose in my chest. Was my husband going to be okay?
On reaching the driveway, I saw the house surrounded by emergency services. Before I could go inside, a police officer approached. 'I'm so sorry,' he said. 'Ricki is deceased.' His words knocked the air from my lungs. No! Ricki was so strong and full of life. It couldn't be true. I listened in horror as police explained he'd been electrocuted while using the vacuum cleaner.
Investigations were ongoing but they believed it was plugged in and turned on at the wall when Ricki pulled off the nozzle attachment and touched a live part of the machine. The shock had killed him instantly. While they took the vacuum away for further testing, they concluded it was a just a freak accident.
Mum and Dad did their best to comfort me in the days that followed, but nothing could ease my pain. 'He can't be gone,' I wailed. 'I need him. Our baby needs him.' It was meant to be the happiest time of our lives. But instead of planning our family's future, I was organising my husband's funeral.
My GP was devastated when I told him what had happened. While I'd hoped for a natural birth, he warned me it would be incredibly difficult for me. There was also a risk I'd go into labour at Ricki's funeral. So six days after losing Ricki, I was preparing for the caesarean birth of the baby who would never meet her daddy. I felt he was watching over me as I gripped Mum's hand in the delivery suite.
Then suddenly I heard a loud cry. Catching my first glimpse of our precious girl, I felt I could burst with love. Her little frown was the spitting image of Ricki's. Naming her Maisie Ricki in honour of her father, there was finally some happiness amid the darkness. Four days later, with the heaviest of hearts, I took Maisie to Ricki's funeral. She was dressed in a tiny All Blacks jersey, a tribute to her dad's favourite rugby team.
Hundreds of people came to farewell my incredible husband, but at home reality set in. Ricki was really gone. I had no income and didn't qualify for benefits because I wasn't yet an Australian citizen. Weeks later, still reeling with grief, I received a call from Sally at the Changing Lives Project. 'We want to help,' she said, explaining the non-profit charity was raising funds for our future.
Before I knew it, complete strangers were donating money and organising a fundraising ball. I was incredibly touched. Five months on, not a minute goes by that I don't miss Ricki. Some days I barely manage to get out of bed, but Maisie's gorgeous smile keeps me going.
She deserves a happy mummy and I'm amazed how much she grows each day. To call someone perfect is a huge statement, but Ricki was exactly that to me. I couldn't have wished for a better husband, friend or father for my precious baby girl. While I'll never fully recover from losing him, I take comfort that I can teach our beautiful daughter all about her daddy. Ricki was truly my soulmate and I'll make sure he's never forgotten.
To show your support, visit www.chuffed.org/project/leanne-and-maisie
This story first appeared in that's life! Issue 44, 2015 cover date 3rd November, 2015.