Remembering Billy

“We streamed Light Up a Life last year and when Billy’s photo came up on the screen, we were all in tears. It’s been five years since he passed but in many ways, it feels like yesterday.” – Susan, Billy’s wife.

Susan was only 16 when she met her future husband, Billy, who was 18. They both lived in Cramlington.

She recalled:

“Billy became friendly with my brother and started to come to my parents’ house. I remember thinking there was something about him and I loved his long dark, wavy hair.”

One Christmas, Billy turned up on the doorstep but he wasn’t looking for Susan’s brother. Instead he asked Susan for a Christmas kiss.

“I did give Billy his Christmas kiss and from that day on we were practically inseparable,” Susan added.

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Susan and Billy became engaged when Susan was 18 and Billy was 20. They married two years later and in 1975, bought their first home together.

The couple had two children – Nichola, born in 1979, and Trevor, born in 1981.

The family stayed in Cramlington and Billy worked seven days a week as an engineer. He supported his wife as she gained a BA Hons in 3D Design, Glass and Ceramics at the age of 40.

“Billy was very proud and supportive of me during this time, as were the children.” Susan added.

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Billy loved Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and he and Susan often went to concerts together.

They loved family holidays but when the children grew older, the couple enjoyed more exotic trips travelling to India, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy and other lovely places.

“We were in the middle of three hurricanes and nearly drowned on a catamaran – it was always an adventure wherever we went!” Susan said.

Four grandchildren kept Billy and Susan busy, as did Nichola’s dogs, which Billy loved taking for a walk on the local beach.

Susan often suggested to her husband he should retire, but the hard-working 65-year-old always replied, “Just a bit longer.”

Then Billy started to feel unwell and went to the doctor. He was eventually sent for tests where it was discovered he had advanced bile duct cancer.

“We were gobsmacked. We both had tears in our eyes in the specialist’s room. It was such a shock,” Susan revealed.

A few days later, Billy’s condition deteriorated and he was taken to Cramlington Hospital. A week later, he was moved to the Freeman Newcastle and put on kidney dialysis.

A few days after that, he was transferred to St Oswald’s Hospice for end-of-life care.

Susan said: “Billy wanted to go to St Oswald’s Hospice because his auntie had been cared for there and the team had been wonderful.”

Susan and the family spent many hours with Billy, who insisted they go home at night to get their rest.

Four days after Billy arrived at St Oswald’s Hospice, the family returned one morning to find his condition had worsened overnight. The nursing team was playing Bob Dylan in his room.

Billy died later that day, with Susan, Nichola and Trevor by his side.

At the funeral, Billy was described as “The Quiet Man” in homage to his quiet nature and love of the classic film starring John Wayne.

“He could occasionally shout if anything went wrong – for example the time I took the wing off the car. But generally, he just plodded along with life.”

St Oswald’s Hospice kept in touch with Susan after Billy died and offered her bereavement support. Initially, she didn’t feel ready to talk about what had happened but this changed 18 months later when Susan was struggling with her grief and asked for help.

Two years ago, Susan’s dad also died of cancer and five days after that, Nichola’s husband died suddenly. The family was shaken to the core.

St Oswald’s Hospice bereavement team began supporting Nichola and her two sons to help them deal with their devastating loss.

Susan also continued to speak to Sarah, one of our Bereavement Support Practitioners.

Susan said:

“I’m so pleased I talked to Sarah. I cried a lot but I would also tell stories about Billy that made us laugh. It was nice having someone to talk to who wasn’t a family member as they were going through so much.”

To thank St Oswald’s Hospice for the amazing care provided to three generations of their family, the Cox’s have raised around £5,000 for the hospice through donations, sponsorship and fundraising.

Susan explained: “My son and daughter have raised a lot of money for the hospice over the years in different ways, as well as other members of our family and friends. A big sum was also raised at Billy’s funeral.”

“If it wasn’t for people like us raising money for St Oswald’s Hospice, they couldn’t do what they do.

They’ve been so lovely to us and we want to support that.”

The family have also participated in the annual Light Up A Life event.

“We streamed it last year and when Billy’s photo came up on the screen, we were all in tears.

It’s been five years since he passed but in many ways, it feels like yesterday.”

Susan will again be taking part in the In Light Up A Life this year to remember her beloved husband.

She would also like to thank all the staff at St Oswald’s Hospice for everything they have done for Billy and for the continued support of their family.

“They are amazing,” Susan adds.

And just like Billy’s photo, with a Mojito in his hand, the family will be raising a toast to their ‘quiet man’ this Christmas.

Susan will again be taking part in our Light up a Life remembrance service this Christmas in memory of her beloved husband, Billy. If you would like to dedicate a light in memory of someone you love and miss, please visit our Light up a Life page to find out more about making your dedication and how you can join our in-person remembrance event on Wednesday 6th December 2023 or how you can tune in from the comfort of your own home.

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