ANDY Combs had vowed to his family that he would live to see his youngest daughter’s first day at school.
He did just that – but just a day after five-year-old Helena’s first full day at Elson Infants in Gosport, the brave dad lost his fight with the brain tumour he had battled against for the past 11 years.
The 36-year-old was at Rowans Hospice when his little girl curled up on his bed next to him to tell him about her big day.
His widow Emma said: ‘Helena just crawled into bed beside him and cuddled him. I said: “Andy, your baby’s here, she went to school today,” and very faintly he said he wished he had the strength to cuddle her.’
Thirty-seven-year-old Emma was at her husband’s side the next day as his strength failed. ‘He took my hand,’ she said, ‘and whispered: “I love you.” Those were his last words.’
The family, from Exmouth Road, Gosport, are now facing life without the beloved husband and father-of-three.
‘He was so inspirational and he had so much determination,’ said Emma. ‘Many lesser people would have just sat back and said “I’ve got a brain tumour, that’s the end of my life.”
‘But a couple of months ago he was still talking about going out and doing voluntary work. He was my special guy.’
Andy and Emma met 11 years ago, but he was diagnosed with the tumour just one month later and was told that he could expect to live for another 10 years.
The couple decide to stick together and soon got married.
Through years of gruelling chemotherapy and a major operation in 2004, they attempted to maintain a normal family life.
Andy, who had his own car valeting business, had three children with his wife – Martin, seven, Kristy, 10 and Helena.
In January Kristy was featured on the front page of The News after she made a 999 call that saved Andy’s life when he collapsed with a seizure.
Emma said: ‘His own father died of a brain tumour at 44. He didn’t want his own children to experience the same pain, but out of selfishness, I wanted children.
‘I loved him so much, I knew I was going to lose him at some point.Now I’ve got three parts of him to cherish and I hope I do a good job of bringing them up.
‘The last few years have been all about making memories for them to have of him.
‘The kids have each got a bear which they made with Andy at each of their first Christmases. Whenever they’re missing their daddy they’ve got their bears. Obviously that’s not going to stop the hurt altogether, but they can cuddle them and think of him.’
Since January Andy had been receiving palliative care and on September 1 he was moved into the hospice at Purbrook.
‘They were fantastic,’ Emma added. ‘They were so helpful to Andy and all of us.’
Family ask for colourful funeral tributes to be worn
THE family of Andy Combs are asking for his friends to wear the wackiest ties they can find in tribute to him.
The dad-of-three was well known for his unusual taste in ties and had spoken of his desire for people to wear bright colours at his funeral. Widow Emma said: ‘The last time we spoke about his funeral was in 2004 when he had the major surgery.
‘That was when things were at their worst, and we didn’t know what was going to happen, but then he got better again for a while.
‘He said he wanted everybody to wear bright colours. I’ve told people if they want to wear black out of respect, that’s fine, but he liked his funky ties, and it would be lovely if people could wear that bit of colour.
‘We never spoke about it again, and that was his choice.
‘He didn’t want to talk about his funeral this time around because he was so adamant it wasn’t going to go this far – he was a real fighter.’
The funeral will take place at noon on Tuesday, September 27 at St Mary’s Church in Rowner before a private ceremony at the crematorium.
The family have requested that instead of flowers, donations be made to the Rowans Hospice, where Andy spent his final days, care of EJ Crossland in Forton Road, Gosport, on (023) 9258 0074.