Holidays without Dad

Our favourite holiday – swimming with dolphins near Nassau.

Watching awestruck as the world’s biggest water display gushed forth, my eyes stung with tears. A soundtrack of Whitney Houston belting out I will always love you,  didn’t help. As crowds surged around me at the foot of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa I was lost in a world of my own.

Last week, me and my girls sampled the mind-blowing delights of this glittering city of majestic skyscrapers, including the world’s tallest building where I cried. We loved every minute, but Dad was missing. From the moment we checked in at Birmingham airport, Neil’s absence was felt. Usually it would be him stressing about passports, boarding cards and baggage allowances, but here I was clasping the precious paperwork like my life depended on it. I was irritable and snappy.

On the plane I imagined Neil there by me as we took off, holding my hand and smiling, then stroking my arm and telling us what a great time we would have. This also made me cry and I shed more tears on the way back.

I listened to Van Morrison sing Brown Eyed Girl, a song he loved so much and drifted off into daydreams of times we spent together. An air hostess asked if I was okay and  I assured her I was fine, even if I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want her to think I was mad.

But now, with six months passed since we lost our gorgeous Neil to cancer, I can sometimes find myself smiling at these memories and can bear to say out loud to our daughters: “Your dad would have loved this.” That brings a smile rather than tears. It’s such a cliche but I know he wants us to carry on and have an amazing time wherever we can.

I wrote about our travels for the Express in a piece entitled We’ll see the world in my husband’s memory.

When Melissa and Emily, now 14, were babies you’d find us at cheap and cheerful holiday parks.

We hurtled down slides, spent too much time on roller coasters and laughed until we cried in Blackpool. After we set up our family travel blog, tourist board invites came thick and fast. We had the holiday of a lifetime in 2009 when Disney invited us on a Caribbean cruise and we swam with dolphins off the coast of Nassau in the Bahamas.

I promised Neil that the girls and I would continue to travel, enjoying new places, people and experiences.

We’ve already been to the five-star Sensatori resort in Crete. We missed Neil so much, he would have loved it.

Last week a very kind friend welcomed us into her home in Dubai. We went celebrity spotting (and were rewarded with a sighting of athlete and sports presenter Colin Jackson) at the iconic Atlantis Hotel, screamed with laughter while dune bashing on a desert safari and marvelled at the opulence of sprawling shopping malls. It was an amazing experience but one that also made me dwell on all we have lost.

As well as Dubai, we have also lined up other trips, one of which is to Egypt. Our girls are committed to seeing as much of the world as they can. Together we are going to a remote area in South Africa near Durban called White River. There we will help feed and clothe children orphaned by HIV and Aids.

Another place I want us all to go is India.

I haven’t been able to bear to look at this site for months, Neil was a driving force behind it and it’s full of our holidays together. Now I feel more confident about posting again and looking forward to more adventures. Neil may not be here with us in person, but he will always be in my heart and I will always see him there on the plane, smiling and stroking my arm. Then we’d say ‘Love you, Darling.’

And that will never change.

If you’re interested in seeing how we’re getting on otherwise, have a look at my blog Half of Me. Thanks x