He hated being away: why my husband wanted to die at home


When Tony was told he only had weeks left, his first wish was to spend them in his own home. His widow Kristen recounts their story.

It took me a month before I could move back into the house after Tony died. At first I could barely bring myself to go inside to feed his cats. I would walk up to the door race in, do what I had to do and run out trying not to cry.

It wasn’t that Tony had died there, I still wouldn’t change that for the world; it was that Tony and I lived there but he wasn’t there anymore.

Tony was the finest man I’ve ever met and I can’t put into to words how much he was loved by anyone who ever knew him.

In movies they all talk about a lasting presence after someone dies. What they don’t talk about though is the lasting absence the feeling you get when you walk into to a room and realise it has a giant Tony-shaped hole.

When Tony was sick the days moved so slowly, now time moves way too fast.

It’s been three months since he died and sometimes it feels like three years. I live in fear of the day that I’ll forget how he walked or talked or even what his face looked like.That’s why as hard as it is right now, I’m so glad we had what we had when we could.

Tony never really talked about death; he always said he was too busy "whipping cancer’s arse!" I’d hear him in the shower yelling at his abdomen; "right go on get out of there you bugger!"

What we did talk about though is how Tony wanted to live his last days and more importantly who he wanted to live them with. The Silver Chain palliative care service were the people that made that possible.

Tony hated hospitals. Not because of what they did to him or what they represented, he just hated being away from home. So when the doctors said he probably had three weeks to live his message was clear, let’s go home and let’s get everybody there.

As hard as those last weeks were and I would never pretend they weren’t anything but the hardest of my life, we had a lot of fun. Tony’s family and friends came from everywhere, flying in from Queensland and New Zealand they’d drop in for the day or sometimes stay for the week. We had parties and barbecues all centered around Tony, holding court from his Silver Chain bed. Now you just can’t do that in a hospital.

We even got married on that bed. It wasn’t the wedding either of us had planned but it was our wedding none the less and I’m so glad he died a husband and I his wife.

When Tony was sick all I wanted to do was to make him as comfortable as possible. Dying at home was supposed to be about him not me. Looking back now though I think it was also Tony’s last gift to the ones he loved.

Being at home allowed Tony to guide us through the journey of his illness. As he got sicker he was determined to make sure we didn’t get sadder. I often felt like I was the sick one the amount of attention he gave me.

I’m back in our home now. It’s still hard and there are rooms in the house I don’t like to go in but with the help of good friends and family I get by.

Tony was determined that he wouldn’t be defined by pancreatic cancer. I’m determined to remember that this is the not only the house where Tony died, it’s the house where we lived and loved right to the end.