A ‘gentle giant’ who died just months after becoming a father to ‘miracle’ twins said dozens of people will be remembered at a fun-filled memorial service – designed to match his personality.
IT specialist Mark Lawrence, 51, was found dead by his fiance Nikki Fletcher at home on March 9.
The engaged couple had only recently returned from Queen Alexandra Hospital with the twin boys, George and Oliver, born at just 25 weeks.
Now Nikki, 34, of Lavender Road, in Waterlooville, is planning a memorial for Mark – known as ‘the greatest showman’ – due to be held this week. They had been due to get married in May.
The tribute day will have a photo booth, bouncy castle and sumo wrestling suits to match Mark’s ‘big kid at heart’ attitude, Nikki said.
Speaking to The News, Nikki said: ‘Losing Mark feels like I've lost a massive part of my heart.
‘Every day is different. I have good days and some very bad days where I could sit and cry.
‘But then I look at George and Oliver and I think come on Nikki, you can do this.’
She added: ‘If anything can come out of this then hopefully it is to raise awareness of the difficulties of mental health. I would urge anyone struggling with mental health to talk to someone about it. It's okay not to be okay.’
The News previously reported how Nikki and Mark returned to QA Hospital to thank the paramedics and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staff who ensured the boys, born in November last year, can now have a healthy childhood.
Photos taken on the day of Mark’s memorial service in a selfie booth will be put in a memory box for the twins.
Nikki said: ‘The last few months have been very hard for us with the boys coming early and Mark being made redundant from a job he had been in for 21 years.
‘Mark was an amazing man who loved life and hid his problems – which I wish he never had as if he spoke about them he may still be here today.
‘He was a gentle giant with a lot of love to give and gave the best hugs to everyone.’
Memorial plans are being helped by Steph Fleet, who runs the dance group FitnFunkey, where Nikki and Mark met and fell in love two years ago.
Steph – who is the twins’ godmother and was due to be a bridesmaid – said Mark’s daughter Coral had died aged 19 just a few years ago.
Steph said: ‘Mark joined us to help deal with the grief of losing his daughter who sadly passed away.
‘After Nikki joined the group the two became close and we celebrated their engagement.
‘He was our greatest showman – a gentle giant and a lovable guy who will be terribly missed by us all.’
Since Mark’s passing, Steph and the dance group has continued to be a source of support to Nikki.
The wake will also include many of the FitnFunkey dance routines which Nikki and Mark enjoyed performing together. Steph added: ‘This wake will be loud and proud – in keeping with our FitnFunkey motto.
‘We will be doing a full rendition of dances from our performance parties. We will give Mark the send off we know he would have loved.’
The wake will take place at Springwood Community Centre in Waterlooville on April 20 between 2.30pm-5pm. All are welcome.