Yesterday we were given the news that we knew would come one day soon, but that we’d all been dreading, Pete’s cancer has spread and is “misbehaving” (maybe it needs a hub or a Tsar?) it’s looking less likely that it will respond to further treatment, and at the moment Pete is too ill to undergo any.

Even though we knew it was coming, even though we expected it months ago, way back in July we were told Pete had a matter of weeks left, it still hits you like a punch in the stomach. Obviously, it’s very upsetting, and telling family and close friends is very hard. But Pete is incredibly philosophical about it, back in July we didn’t think he would be here in September, and yet here we are, it’s nearly May and we’ve had so much precious extra time.

There were lots of tears yesterday but there was also laughter, and the opportunity to sit quietly together and just be. The team at Weston Park were wonderful and couldn’t have been more supportive and kind, and the palliative care team are working hard to make sure he’s comfortable, We hope that he will be able to come home to be with the people he loves.

Pete and I have been overwhelmed by the support and kindness we’ve been shown. Yesterday we spent a lot of time talking and reflecting. I woke up this morning in the early hours thinking about everything that has happened in the last 24 hours, the last week, month, and over the last year.  It struck me that what we were given back in June 2021 was a gift. It’s a gift no one wants to receive but it was a gift all the same.
The gift of time to say all the things you need to say to the people that matter most to you and the gift to take stock together over a life well-lived. To look back and reminisce, to share thoughts hopes, and dreams that might not happen the way you would have wanted them to, but that might still happen in a different way for those left behind.
It’s a gift to have the time to be able to tell each other how proud you are of each other, although in that way we’ve been lucky because we’ve always done that. But we got the gift of hearing from so many other people what a difference Pete has made to their lives, whether as an artist, a teacher, a colleague, a family member, or a friend. We got the gift of realising the impact one life can have on many. A bit of a “George Bailey” moment.

We got the gift of friendship and love. When the chips were down so many wonderful people showed us the true meaning of friendship with their actions. Illness and impending death are hard to be around and the rollercoaster of treatment, of seeming to get better then deteriorating, almost in a loop, is exhausting. But they’ve come along for the ride and haven’t complained that they are too busy or too tired or too upset themselves.
If I had a choice I wouldn’t have taken the gift, I would have carried on the way we were because life was bloody good and we were loving it and living it. But there wasn’t a choice.

The only choice we had was to accept what was on offer and spend however long we had left railing against the unfairness of it all or getting on with the business of living while we can.
Our mantra from the moment we found out Pete was a candidate for palliative chemotherapy has been “as comfortable as possible for as long as possible” and that’s what we’ve tried to do, to make the most of whatever time we’ve been given.
We’re extremely fortunate that as a family we have always taken great pleasure in small things and we’ve made a point of enjoying all these things as much as we can during the last 10 months. The pleasure of making a meal together, or playing a game, of opening tacky Christmas presents, going to the supermarket or just sitting on the sofa together.

It hasn’t been easy. There have been a lot of tears, of course we feel robbed of our future together. We’d hoped to drive highway one and visit Japan together and I had this mad idea that once the girls had finished school we’d buy a camper van and Pete and I would combine some of my work with touring the uk, that won’t happen now. But like Pete has said, “it’s just a different chapter in the book”.

We’ve been very lucky indeed. Not everyone gets 33 happy years together and gets the chance to tell the people they love most that they feel closer now than they’ve ever felt to them. We’ve spent so much time together, since diagnosis and in the previous year due to the pandemic. We got to spend all our time together for months on end and know that we still love each other’s company and can still make each other laugh until we cry.

The biggest gift is knowing how precious life is. It’s too precious to spend it doing things that make you unhappy. Sometimes you have to be brave and try something new. The worst that could happen is it won’t work, you can always do something else instead. Nothing is insurmountable. But life is too precious to spend it doing things that ultimately make you miserable. I’m glad we were able to work and live in a way that matches our values. I’m glad we got to model that for our own children.
Life is precious. It’s too precious to waste on bitterness, anger, regret, grudges, vitriol. That stuff will only eat you up and spoil your time, no one else’s. Far better to take any anger you have and turn it into a positive, do something with it, and help to be a part of the change. To seek out like-minded people and try to do things with them that make a positive difference no matter how small. Because you never know what a big difference that small thing can make, we’ve been given the gift of finding that out.

64 responses to “The Gift”

  1. David Phillips avatar
    David Phillips

    This is very moving. I hope you live this peace together in the time you have left.

    1. Alison Wilshaw avatar
      Alison Wilshaw

      How inspirational.

  2. Lynsey Hunter avatar
    Lynsey Hunter

    You are bloody amazing.

  3. Tara Loughran avatar
    Tara Loughran

    Beautiful words. Life is indeed a gift. Your gift of memories will run forever. Take care of yourself too. Love and prayers

  4. Helen Keenan avatar
    Helen Keenan

    Oh Ruth, I had to read this before I went to work because I saw your tweet. Such powerful, poignant and beautiful words to describe the love within your family and for each other. Your words have reminded me of many important things today and given me a much needed reality check. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I will be thinking of you all in the coming days and weeks and wishing you peace, courage and love. X

  5. Alli Brown avatar
    Alli Brown

    Beautiful, beautiful words. Sending love and strength.

  6. Maryse avatar

    Sending you all my love and thoughts. If there is anything that anyone can do then you have 100s waiting to support you.

  7. Sue avatar

    A beautiful piece of writing. Your take on this is very moving and thought provoking.
    Thank you xxx

  8. Georgeanne Lamont avatar
    Georgeanne Lamont

    Thank you for this gift Ruth and Pete. What a gift, of unlimited value. You have both lived and emerged a way of being over these last precious 10 months that has been extraordinary in its pure love of life itself. It’s a gift to us all. Woke up thinking of you early this morning and was sending thoughts of love. V grateful to be able to read your gift now to understand what is unfolding. Thank you. In wonder and thankfulness, Georgeanne ????????

  9. Lea Ellen Archer avatar
    Lea Ellen Archer

    Absolutely beautiful, I feel honoured to have read your wonderful love story. Wishing you peace and sending love to you both.

  10. Kaye avatar

    This is such an inspiring piece of writing. Thank you for sharing. Lots of love and kindness to you and your family x

  11. Christine avatar

    Such beautiful words, Ruth. I only know you from Twitter but your family are in my thoughts. I lost my Dad just before Easter after a short illness and will always be so grateful for the gift of a few weeks when we were able to say all things we wanted to. Sending you all best wishes xxx

  12. Jayne Ford avatar
    Jayne Ford

    Thank you for sharing these wise and inspirational words and for sharing your journey with us. You have touched and impacted upon so many. Enjoy your precious time with Pete and your family. X x

  13. Jenny avatar

    Beautiful words, thinking of you all.

  14. Ann Seal avatar
    Ann Seal

    So true Ruth and so inspiring for anyone who can make a choice to do what they feel happy and worthwhile with. Time is a huge gift and often it isn’t until the threat of it ‘running out’ or when it’s actually running out that people feel able to make those choices. I’m full of admiration for you all, following your tweets over many months has been both inspiring and moving. Your beautiful family will come through to the next (but different than planned) chapter with grace and gratitude for all you have had and the spirit to carry on in whatever way you choose. So pleased to read you are taking time out now to spend time together, hoping you can take all you need for as long as you need it. Sending love

  15. Anita ghidotti-gubson avatar
    Anita ghidotti-gubson

    Beautiful, Ruth. Heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measure. What really shines out of this whole blog is love…. absolute pure love. Sending you lots and lots of it even though you are already surrounded. Mex

  16. Tim Gallagher avatar
    Tim Gallagher

    Words aren’t enough but often they are all we have got. You and your family are beacons of light focussed on positivity and graciousness. Thank you for your updates and your expressions of humanity in action. Bless you and your family and know you are loved and respected. As ever folk are ready to do anything, anything to help. X

  17. Kathy avatar

    You are so brave, I guess we never know until it happens what inner reserves we have to call upon. I only know you through twitter, but you have been full of wise words to any questions I have had. You inspired me to learn how to crochet – quite difficult for me – and I’m very grateful for I wouldn’t have persevered without your encouragement. Learning a new skill in my 60s was challenging but also the same process as for children. I wish you the continued strength you have already and send love to all your family. You write from the heart and it touches everyone. Xx

  18. Penny avatar

    Thinking of you both and thinking of your family. Breathing with you. Sending you love at this surreal and painful time.

  19. Peter Thomas avatar
    Peter Thomas

    This is so admirable, Ruth. It’s not only that it declares a healthy truth, but that, in the midst of your own distressing circumstances you give others in similar circumstances – or better – a sense of what matters most in life and relationships. Thank you.

  20. Caragh Little avatar
    Caragh Little

    A wonderful, life-affirming piece which was so moving to read. Wishing you as much time as possible with your beloved Pete. Thinking of you always.

  21. Helen Porter avatar
    Helen Porter

    Beautifully written, Ruth. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and reflections at this incredibly difficult time. Sending you both positive thoughts and hugs. I lost my husband to cancer three years ago and understand how precious and valuable your time together is. X

  22. Margaret Gregg avatar
    Margaret Gregg

    Thinking of you all. Thank you for sharing the love that surrounds both you and your family. Unfortunately we go through life joining clubs, some we want to, some we don’t. You’ve obviously joined one you don’t want to be a member of but you’re taking from it what you can and adding all you can to it. Love to you all.

  23. Joanne Butterworth avatar
    Joanne Butterworth

    What a gift, beautiful yet tragic. You and Peter are amazing, sharing your story means we have been able to share the gift with you. You are both inspirational and I wish you love and peace in this final chapter. Thank you so much for allowing us to support you during this time. Much love Joanne x

  24. Karen Jones avatar
    Karen Jones

    Your strength, humanity and courage are astonishing Ruth. Letting the outside world into your daily life has been like a gift too. It one that any of us has wanted but one that has helped us all understand the power of positivity, love and laughter. Thank you and sending love right back to you all. Xxx

  25. Alison Moore avatar
    Alison Moore

    Beautiful heart felt words Ruth and thank you for sharing. Thinking of you all and sending virtual hugs.

  26. Jane avatar

    This is sad and touching and so, so right. Thank you for your generosity through this hard time- your sharing enriches so many lives. Your grace and dignity is extraordinary. May this time be as you need it to be. With love to you all jx

  27. Sarah Cummins avatar
    Sarah Cummins

    Beautiful words. Heartbreaking yet beautiful. I hope you all find peace during this time and remember the sheer volume of love and respect you’ve been so lucky to share for all these years. Much love and strength.

  28. Donna avatar

    What an awe inspiring, fabulous piece of emotional writing taken straight from the hearts of your family. I wish you all peace and strength in the coming days, months and years. Ruth, you are an inspiration.

  29. Catherine avatar

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your words are so helpful. Sending love and peace to you and your family.

  30. Peter Gartside avatar
    Peter Gartside

    Thanks for sharing this, Ruth. It might sound strange but following your journey via Twitter has been inspiring. I hope that if I was in your situation I’d be able to meet it with even half the grace, good humour and honesty you two have. Lots of to all of you. X

  31. Nic avatar

    This blog – your thoughts and words is our gift. To learn from you and your experience – with my heart in my mouth and all my love for you all. Thank you xxx

  32. Helen Freeborn avatar
    Helen Freeborn

    This is so poignant and beautiful and it made me cry. Your (both of you) eloquence and gentle dignity in the face of pain is a lesson to me.

  33. mandy Pitts avatar
    mandy Pitts

    Beautiful, moving, brave and I agree with yours and Peters values, I hope you spend this precious time enjoying each other, your children and building your new chapters with the husband you love. I believe it will help all of you. I send love and prayers to all of you, whilst I only know you from Twitter, I have been privileged to know your story, thank you ❤️

  34. Jane Cross avatar
    Jane Cross

    Much love to you and your family. It’s been heartbreaking, but inspiring following your journey. Very warmest of wishes to you all. xxx

  35. Roisin Mccooey avatar
    Roisin Mccooey

    Ruth, both you and Pete are a true reflection of what love is! Thank you for sharing. May your time together continue to be precious ❤️ and all these beautiful memories will remain strong in your heart forever. Take care xo

  36. Donna Margaret Kettle avatar
    Donna Margaret Kettle

    Ruth, you have made a significant impact on me and how I think about life, love, death and a million other things life throws at us. I wanted to thank you for ‘your gift’- the ability to connect with people who have never really met you and your ability to put down on paper what I would struggle to. You are indeed an inspiration Ruth. Love to both you, Pete and your girls at this really difficult but precious time x

  37. Kelly Adams avatar
    Kelly Adams

    We don’t know each other-I’ve quietly followed your journey via twitter after I happened across it last July. I feel I must just say that your insight and strength is just incredible. Sending love to you all.

  38. ColletteW avatar

    Sending so much love to you and Pete. This resonates with so many and is beautifully written. Being happy is so important and your marriage sounds wonderful. Xxxx

  39. Sally Hinchliff avatar
    Sally Hinchliff

    This is so beautiful Ruth. What an incredible talent you have for capturing such joy and such sorrow. I have been there. You write so powerfully but so ‘ quietly’ too. Can’t think of another word for it. You don’t know me but sending love.

  40. Cate avatar

    I’m smiling through tears here. This is absolutely beautiful. We visited my brother who is undergoing cancer treatment a few weeks ago in Cornwall. He is doing up a sailing boat! We used to sail as kids. It’s a dream he could make come true… so he did it. We all should really. Even if it’s just small ones. Time is so precious.

    I’m so heartbroken and sorry for you both and your family Ruth. I am pouring all of my love and strength out to you. Even though I may not be a close friend, I am here should you need anything. No matter what.

    May your time now be gentle, loving and as happy as possible xxxxx

  41. Kate avatar

    So very sad to read this but in awe of how you and Pete have shared this journey. You use beautiful words with truth and honesty and love without anger or blame. I only know you through Twitter but feel privileged to read your family story. Thank you for sharing. Keeping you all in my thoughts x

  42. Carmel avatar

    Dearest Ruth – what started as a Twitter friendship has become so much more. You are exactly the same at conferences, over meals and in every aspect of life – loving, caring, hilariously funny, inspirational and supremely intelligent. D and I talk about you and Pete so often. We are so lucky to own some of his gorgeous ceramics and to have met this legend of a man. Thank you so much in sharing your journey with such courage and grace. You, Pete and C and H are, and always will be, surrounded by love. You have given so many of us so much. May all now be gentle.

  43. Rumena avatar

    Ruth, I’ve followed this incredibly difficult journey of yours since last year and I am so proud of how you’ve dealt with it. With dignity, strength and hope you’ve carried on. And each time I read about you and Pete it makes me consider how ungrateful we are being with the time we have with our loved ones. I pray for your continued strength in such painful circumstances and hope that the wonderful memories you have created will keep you going strong for years to come.

    But despite being so strong I know how painful it is to lose someone so beloved. And I just want you to remember you don’t always have to be strong. I’m so glad you have an incredible support network. Allow yourself to lean on those wonderful friends and family around you and cry it out when you need to.

    Sending you lots of love and prayers. Xx

  44. Melanie Bailey avatar
    Melanie Bailey

    Lovely, moving words. Thinking of you all. x

  45. Edwina avatar

    Thank you for your beautiful words. Very moving. You have such courage. Like many, I only know you through Twitter. But I have been following the story of you both.
    I will keep you all in my prayers.
    Please don’t reply – every minute you have left together is too precious.

  46. Julie Marsh avatar
    Julie Marsh

    Beautiful and brave words ❤️
    Sending love xxx

  47. Julie Bond avatar
    Julie Bond

    Such lovely words and it has been a privilege to share your journey through Twitter.
    So glad that you have had the opportunity to talk together. We lost my dad back in October and he couldn’t talk to my mom about it at all. She found that very difficult.
    Thinking of you all at this time.

  48. Liz Hammersley avatar
    Liz Hammersley

    Thank you for sharing this. Sending prayers

  49. Sharon Betts avatar
    Sharon Betts

    Dear Ruth,
    What beautiful words. You are so strong and inspiring as is Pete. Sending lots of love and prayers for you and your family. ❤️

  50. Eleanor avatar

    Your words are so moving. They gave me cause to reflect on my own life and those of the people I love. I have always respected your professional knowledge but I am in awe of your personal strength and your ability to share your feelings in the face of such difficult times. May you and your family continue to find strength together. Sending much love….you are all in my thoughts x

  51. Fay avatar

    Just so much love to you both brave people. Thinking of you lots.x

  52. Liz avatar

    Like so many others, I have been moved to tears and filled with admiration for the incredibly positive way you are dealing with this part of your journey. Like so many others, I have been inspired by your wisdom, fortitude and love.
    Like so many others I have been forced to reflect on my own situation and like so many others I have audited my own set of values and life choices. Ruth, you have changed the course of my life by the sharing of your journey.
    For this I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We don’t know each other and will never meet but the way your words have reached my heart and soul will never leave me.
    Much love and hugs to you and your incredible family.

  53. Natalie avatar

    Such beautiful words. Thank you for sharing. Made me have a stop and think moment. Remembering what matters. Love and strength to you and your family x

  54. Les Hall avatar
    Les Hall

    What a beautiful piece of writing. The strength and dignity you have all shown has been amazing. Sending you all much love, light and prayers xx

  55. Kerry Levesley avatar
    Kerry Levesley

    Just beautiful. I’m in bits but full of respect and awe for how you have handled such a difficult situation. Wishing you all the best for the most peaceful ending to this chapter of your story together. Thank you for sharing it.

  56. Audrey Pantelis avatar
    Audrey Pantelis

    Ruth you have shown courage and love and strength. You and Pete have indeed had a gift. You’ve unwrapped it and taken good care of it. How amazing you are! I am sending prayers and love. I don’t know you but I pray that you have more days of gifting remaining.
    A xx

  57. Lynne and Steven Tasker avatar
    Lynne and Steven Tasker

    Thinking of you both and praying for strength as you navigate life’s challenges. So glad to have been a part in your lives and see how happy and well matched you both are. Love and hugs Steven and Lynne xx

  58. Becky avatar

    Wow! Thank you for sharing the gift. What amazing, positive and courageous people you are. Sending ❤️

  59. Katie avatar

    A truly inspirational and beautiful reflection on what sounds to have been a very happy and well lived life together. I hope all is gentle in the coming weeks.

  60. Maggie Atkinson avatar
    Maggie Atkinson

    Such grace. Such awareness. Such love. Thank you for letting us share on whatever levels this last 10 months. Love k you all for the coming time from this distance, and for whatever shape life will take for your family when one chair at your table is finally left empty. I hope your time together now is as peaceful and warm as possible. I’m in no doubt it will be full of love.

  61. Alison avatar

    I had to respond to give my best wishes to you all. I’ve followed you for many years on twitter, can’t even be sure when I first connected with you and we’ve never really corresponded but that’s the beauty of twitter. I’ve read articles and posts by you and Pete many times and admired his pottery and indeed his sock choices from afar. So I wish you peace, love, strength and hope for what lies ahead and ultimately the strength to start writing that alternate but still fulfilling chapter. God bless.

  62. Shan Brough Jones avatar
    Shan Brough Jones

    Sending you love and strength .
    Shan x

  63. Juliet@CreativeSTAR avatar

    All your post is poignant and timely. It’s not even a gift you want in a game of pass the parcel is it?… But a gift, is a gift and may this time you continue to have together be even more precious than all the “borrowed time” you’ve had so far. Big hugs and much love. x

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