Claire Mauremoo, who died aged 39 from neurone disease, was so keen for husband John to find someone after she was gone she even tried to set up dates
A mum devoted to her family spent her final months finding her husband a companion to love him and her sons after she was gone.
Clare Mauremootoo, 39, was devastated to find out she had motor neurone diseaseand that her life would be cut short, forcing her to leave behind Jack, then 10, Ben, seven, and husband of 11 years, John.
But she bravely put her own feelings aside and encouraged her husband to find a new love – even trying to set him up on dates with the hospice nurses.
Although at the time all John focused on was cherishing every moment left with his wife, as she wished, he is now happily re-married.
John, from Bristol, said: “I wasn’t ready to meet someone else but it’s what Clare wanted and she even spoke to hospice staff to line up dates for me.”
Weeks later, in February 2007, John was heartbroken when Clare passed away.
And though he didn’t want to consider a future without his wife, months on, John kept his promise to her and found love again.
John, 52, is sharing his family’s story to make people more aware of this tragic condition.
“When it was suggested Clare could have motor neurone disease she remained positive she would be alright and I hoped for something less serious,” John says.
“Then she was told she had it and I had to face the fact that one day she would be taken from me.”
John and Clare met in 1993 through friends, and at first were mates before realising they wanted to spend their lives together.
Two years later they got married and Clare went on to have the couple’s two boys, Jack and Ben.
Then in May 2006 Clare twisted her ankle and started limping.
Feeling concerned when the limping got worse three months on she went to a doctor. He suggested she could have the incurable condition, motor neurone disease.
“Her aunt had died from it some years earlier,” John says.
“And because of that, seeing the effects of the condition first hand, Clare suspected she could have it too. But she remained positive she would be alright.
“She was young and healthy after all.”
Her next hospital appointment wasn’t for two weeks and in that time Clare couldn’t resist researching the condition she could have, online.
She learnt that motor neurone disease left the muscles weak, affecting a person’s ability to walk, speak, swallow or breathe.
John says: “She was scared and we agreed to prepare for the worst, but I always hoped she’d have something less serious and curable.”
Before she’d even had her tests, Clare began to walk with a stick. Then, in September 2006, she was told the diagnosis was correct.
“As we’d already discussed it, it wasn’t a shock,” John said.
“But we were obviously devastated.
“Quickly, Clare became less expressive, struggled to move with ease, and got tired quicker. We bought a house that I could adapt, to help Clare get about in the years I hoped we’d have left together.
“But Clare’s condition got worse and a month after her diagnosis she was in a wheelchair.
“She never complained to Jack or Ben about how she was feeling. But they saw how unwell she was and distanced themselves, to protect themselves.
“I was exhausted looking after Clare but I didn’t want her to know. She noticed I was struggling though and suggested she stay in a hospice.
“I didn’t want her to as that would mean admitting she was deteriorating fast. So I told myself it would only be until I’d regained my strength to continue caring for her.’
Clare moved in to Weston Hospice, in Somerset, in January 2007, and she and John decorated her room with family photos, cards and flowers.
John took Jack and Ben in to see their mum several times a week, who, when they arrived, was always laughing with nurses and patients.
John recalls: “She seemed happy and I longed for when she’d be well enough to come home.
“She said she felt like she didn’t have long and got upset she wouldn’t live to see our boys grow up. But she smiled when she saw them, kissed and cuddled them.”
Clare and John spoke a lot about their sons’ futures, but she wanted him to be happy too.
For a while she had been asking that he find someone else after she’d died – a new partner, someone he could spend his life with, who would be a good mum to their boys.
John, who didn’t want to admit that Clare was fading fast, or consider a future without her, was shocked by her suggestion.
“She seemed insistent and said she would help me find love,’ he says. ‘She even started chatting to hospice staff in the hope of lining me up a date.
“I wasn’t ready though. I didn’t know if I ever would be, but it’s what Clare wanted.”
During the family’s visits to the hospice, Jack and Ben spent time watching TV while Clare and John chatted about his future.
John says, “She would say, ‘I don’t mind how you meet someone.’
“She even suggested our friends! I felt like it was all happening too quickly.”
People can live with motor neurone disease for years, but just five months after she was diagnosed, Clare was so weak on 11 February that her and John decided that should be the last time their boys saw her.
“Clare’s condition was worsening so we thought it would be too distressing for them to see her after this date.”
Three days later, Clare and John spent their last Valentine’s Day together, looking through old photographs and reminiscing.
“I had mixed feelings remembering the past. I was happy we’d shared so many great times together, but it was hard knowing we wouldn’t share more.”
After that, Clare’s condition rapidly deteriorated with her having difficulty breathing and swallowing and she eventually lost her voice too.
“I did all the talking from there. But we’d been together so long and so in love I often knew what she was thinking just by looking into her eyes.
“On 19 February, Clare passed away in my arms, with me telling her how much I loved her and not to worry about the boys, I would take good care of them.”
Two weeks later, the family held Clare’s funeral. And after, at the wake, they decorated a local hall with photos of her.
Friends and family played her favourite music, and reminisced on Clare’s short but fulfilled life.
John says: “Back home I tried to carry on as normal by getting the boys ready for school and making them dinner, all the while feeling like Clare was watching over us.
“I never forgot her wish for me to meet someone else, but I didn’t want the boys feeling like I was replacing their mum.
“However, at night, after the boys were in to bed, I felt lonely. I missed Clare and wanted companionship. So that May I signed up to a dating website.”
He went on a few dates then came across Julie Macfarlane, a nurse who’d separated from her husband and mum to Isobel, then, six, and John, 10 – similar ages to Jack and Ben.
Feeling comfortable, John told her about Clare, and the couple continued to see each other.
“We were worried our children might think their mum and dad were being replaced so at first we introduced one another as friends.
“Then when the time was right, I told Jack and Ben I was dating Julie. They were upset at first, but over the next six months they warmed to her and her children.”
In March 2008 Ben suggested the two families move in together, and John and Julie spoke about marriage.
For the next few years their children nagged them to do it and, in April 2012, they finally did, with the boys being ushers and Isobel a bridesmaid.
“During my speech I talked about Clare’s diagnosis and the time we’d spent together, and her wish for me to find someone special.
“I told everyone I thought Clare would be smiling down on us. She wanted us to be happy and I think she would be, seeing how things turned out.”