We are here today to remember Dany Donald, mother, daughter, wife, who died a few weeks ago after a period of illness. Dany was my wife for fifteen years, and she was my best friend. Her passing leaves a huge gap in my life and the lives of our three children.
Dany was born in Cambodia at a time in that country’s history when massive harm was done, this was the scenery of her early life. Probably the least said about that the better, but it is obvious to me that this beginning formed her character, and the woman I knew bore deep scars from those emotional wounds.
Most people who knew Dany thought of her as a calm, gentle, kind person, and it is true that she was generous and kind, but she was also stubborn, determined, and a strict parent. As a partner she was reliable, and a mountain would be easier to move.
We first met in Cambodia in 2007, Dany showed me around the country and we fell in love along the way. Our love was a deep and abiding bond that resisted every pressure to break it, we seldom agreed on anything except the desire to be together and to see what adventures our life would bring. We were two very strong willed people and we argued often. She was just over five feet tall, but I never thought of her as small. I bought her some clothes just after she arrived in this country and everything was several sizes too big, this was indicative of the aura Dany presented to the world. She gave the impression of being afraid of nothing, and on the surface this was true, much later I learned more about her and saw the vulnerability that lay behind the front that she projected.
Our first child was born in 2008 just under a year after Dany moved to England. The pregnancy was hard on her, made even more so by her experience of the British winter, the temperature in Cambodia never drops below the high twenties, but, typically, she won through and brought Tigerlily into our lives.
The main characteristic of our life together was of busyness, there was always loads going on. The first years were full of the new baby, and of running around getting Dany her various visas and, eventually, just after the birth of our second child, Jasmine, she was presented with her British citizenship. The work that went into her achieving that milestone needed to be seen, I was in awe of the single-minded determination shown by someone with patchy language skills, who managed to study and pass the test set by the immigration department. But that was Dany’s way, nothing would stop her getting what she wanted.
During this time, we started the building company that has paid the bills for many years, and in 2014 our youngest child was born.
Looking back I wonder how we did it, but I know that it was Dany, behind the scenes, that made success possible. I went out to work, but she was the anchor at home, giving me the stability I needed to manage everything. Whatever happened I knew that when I got home I would have support, if not peace and quiet.
Dany’s last year was truly terrible. She became ill in March and was told she had signs of cancer, this escalated quickly to being told she would die in a few months. The treatment that was offered promised a very small gain with a massive downside, so Dany chose to reject the offer, stay at home with her children and enjoy whatever time was available.
It is my hope that if I were in a similar situation, my dignity would match hers. She met her fate with calmness and peace. For the first time we stopped arguing, and our relationship deepened into something else. It became clear that, although we often struggled being together, being left behind was going to be a battle on a different scale.
It is ironic that it was when she was in the worst pain that she became softest.
She spoke about her plans for me and the children, starting her sentences ‘when I die…’ My response was always that she wasn’t going to die before me, that she would get better soon. She allowed me to believe that, although I am sure she knew she wouldn’t be with us for long.
Dany prepared the children too, telling them what to do after it happened, calmly reassuring them that it was only the cycle of life. I found out, after she died, that they were more accepting of the reality than I had been.
When the end came it was sudden. Throughout the illness, Dany did not look sick, she looked too well to be dying. The night before, she was having trouble breathing and asked for an ambulance in the morning. Two hours after being admitted she suffered a cardiac arrest and couldn’t be revived. The shock is still with me. When she went into the ambulance my main concern was that her phone was charged and that she had her pyjamas, I didn’t even consider it necessary to say goodbye because I knew we would be seeing her again soon.
Now, life goes on for us. Dany wanted us not to cry, to be positive and accept this. All I can think is that her last year was horrible, and that the end brought her blessed relief.
Dany loved her children, she loved her home, she loved her orchids. She loved to know how Tigerlily had got on in her swimming competitions. One of her great joys was driving her beloved Volvo to watch Jasmine play football. Dany loved food, she loved to travel, she loved diamonds. She adored her little Cordelia. This is what I will remember.
When I speak to her, I thank her for her time with me, I thank her for our children, I praise her for the dignity and grace she showed through her final months.
Dany, rest well, wherever you are our thoughts and prayers go with you.
God has called you back, love and light always.