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Father's Day superdad David Ward on bringing six children up after losing his wife to cancerToday doting dad David Ward wakes up to breakfast in bed surrounded by his six loving children. He’ll be opening his cards with youngest daughters Jade and Ella bouncing excitedly on the mattress as teenagers Daniel, Andrew, Bethany and Ben stand smiling at his bedside. A typical Father’s Day morning... but one with a heartbreaking shadow cast over the otherwise happy scene. Because Mum won’t be there to share in the joy. Today is the second Father’s Day since David and the children lost devoted Zoe to cancer at the age of just 33. “Father’s Day without Zoe will be heartbreaking,” says David. “There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about her, but family occasions are pa

rticularly hard. “

It’s a strange mix of emotions with all the kids in a good mood. And in one way I will be happy – but there will always be a hole in my heart where Zoe should be.” Loving spouse: Davids wife Zoe left memory boxes for all the kids and instructions for David (Image: Sunday Mirror Collect) David, 46, and Zoe were together for eight years and married in July 2009. David already had sons Daniel, now 19, and Andrew, 17. Zoe was mum to Jade, 12, Ella, 10, Ben, 15 and Bethany, 17. But just weeks after their wedding non-smoker Zoe was to

ld she had lung cancer. It spread to her brain and in September 2010 she was given just three months to live. She beat the odds to spend her last Christmas with her family but died soon after. David was left devastated – but bravely determined to put his grief aside to do her memory proud and to raise all six children on his own. He wanted to be their stepping stone to the future... just like the one Zoe bought for him on the last Father’s Day they spent together. “Zoe bought me a special stepping stone for the garden path,” he says. “She wanted me to have my footprint cast in it but I asked her to put hers in it instead. “Every time I go out it reminds me of Zoe. It will be the one Father’s Day present I cherish all my life. “When Zoe died she left me a calendar for that year with every birthday an

d special event marked on it. Life cut short: David with wife Zoe on their wedding day (Image: Sunday Mirror Collect) “It was full of pictures, including some taken on Father’s Day. I didn’t want that year to end. I didn’t want to look at the last entry on the calendar. “But there was never any question I wouldn’t take on the kids once Zoe had gone. I love her children like they’re my own. “Every one of them is special in their own way and each has traits of Zoe. When it gets tough that’s what keeps me going.” Courageous Zoe did all she could to help the man she loved be the superdad he is today. She left wise words on how to cope and prepared memory boxes for her children containing photographs, letters, christening candles and certificates of their achievements. David said: “Each of the kids has different strengths and weaknesses and Zoe wanted to make me aware of them. “In her letter she asked me to make sure no women took advantage of Danny because h

e’s quite soft. She insisted that I push Andrew in rugby because he can be quite lazy and suggested I make Bethany focus on schoolwork. “Ben has Asperger’s syndrome and Zoe wants me to help him become more independent. She was worried about Jade’s weight so told me not to let her pile it on! She was worried Ella, being so young, would forget her, and asked me to make sure she never does. “I’m trying my best to follow her advice. When Zoe first passed away I tried to do everything she did and kind of emulate the kind of person and mother she was. “But I came to realise I had to do everything my own way. I do my best to be Mum and Dad, but I can’t replace Zoe. Shattered dreams: David and Zoes wedding (Image: Sunday Mirror Collect) “She made it all seem so effortless. She was studying to be a nurse and combined that with juggling the kids, getting the housework done and still managing to see her friends. She was a total inspiration. It was a shock when I realised just how tough it is to raise six kids.” After Zoe’s death, David decided to carry on with life as normal while taking on the mother role too. It was overwhelming. “I went back to work a couple of days after Zoe’s fune

ral,” he says. “People seemed shocked but, for me, I had to keep things busy and get everything back to normal for the kids. Inside I was screaming. “I missed Zoe so much but I went into automatic pilot, preparing dinners, making sure the kids had what they9047香港马会百度 needed. But when they went to bed at night I felt so alone without Zoe. One morning I got up before everyone else and watched our wedding DVD. I just had to see Zoe and listen to her voice. “I used to go running most mornings and visit Zoe’s gravestone. I’d watch the sun come up and one cold morning I felt her arms around me, keeping me warm. “Slowly the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months and as I muddled by the grief would come in waves and wash over me. But all that time I knew I had the love of the kids.” And it’s that which keeps David going through his exhausting d

ay. His normal routine at home in Hull starts at 5.30am when he prepares packed lunches. Breakfast and school runs follow with help from Zoe’s mum, Sharon, as David heads to work as a technical manager for a kitchen firm. He’s back in time to make tea before helping with homework, talking through the children’s days and starting bedtime routines. Then it’s dad’s taxi service as he runs Jade to Brownies on a Monday and Ella to Guides on a Wednesday. On Thursday, it’s time for swimming. Note from the grave: Letter left by Zoe telling David how to bring u

p their kids (Image: Sunday Mirror Col

lect) Friday is shopping night so tea is usually later and sometimes Bethany or Jade will cook. It’s a relentless and exhausting routine, but David says: “I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I’m proud to be a dad. It’s so rewarding to share everything with the kids.” David smiles as he reveals how raising the girls has been particularly challenging, with awkward moments when he desperately wishes Zoe was still with him to offer motherly help. He says: “I sometimes get it badly wrong. For instance, when they come down and ask me if they look OK in what they are wearing I give the standard man response of ‘yes, it’s fine’. “If they challenge that and I en

d up saying I don’t really think their outfit is nice or appropriate they go nuts and storm upstairs. “But Bethany even has me picking up make-up for her at the supermarket. I’ve had some strange looks while checking out the foundation and lipsticks! “Zoe was really good at telling the kids off if they needed it. I find it quite hard to do on my own. “With Zoe, she played bad cop and I was good cop, but now I have to find a way to hand out punishments and make them stick. It’s not easy because I was always the soft one. But if I’m really struggling I look at the letters Zoe left and it gives me the strength to do it right.” David’s commitment to the children comes at a personal cost, giving him no time to meet anyone else. But he says: “Nobody can replace Zoe. Anyway it wouldn’t be fair to bring someone else into the children’s lives when they are so young. They have been through enough. “In the meantime I will keep my promise to Zoe and do my best to be a good dad to them.” To them, his best is the best there could be. After our interview, Jade whispered: “We’ve got a special surprise for Father’s Day. We’re going to take him out to the seaside and hopefully it will take his mind off Mum for a day. “Some days Dad doesn’t cope very well. He has a little cry about Mum and I’ll give him a cuddle. “But he’s a great dad. We love him so much and couldn’t live without him.”

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