Family Life

Widower's doodles of life after wife's death are incredibly beautiful but heartbreaking

When Gary Andrews, a children cartoon animator, started his Doodle Diaries they were full of happy moments from family life. 

Three years later, the pictures tell as very different story. Six months ago, he lost his wife, Joy, aged 41, to sepsis. 

Now a widower, he captured the challenges of adjusting to life without her, grief and raising their two children, Lily, 10, and Ben, 7. 

Last October, Gary was on a work trip to Canada when Joy feel ill. Just four days after waving him off at the airport, Joy was rushed to hospital and later died of multi-organ failure caused by sepsis. 

Gary, despite his best efforts, didn't make it home before she died. 

That night, overwhelmed with shock and grief, he picked up a pen- and drew a broken heart. 

"I was crying so hard it was difficult to focus on the page. I was drawing through tears," Gary recalled while speaking to The Daily Mail

"Joy had been my soulmate for 19 years. She was beautiful, kind, generous and funny. We did everything together. When I lost her, I felt half of me had gone."

The widower has continued the dairy, documenting every emotion from delight to sorrow. He hopes to eventually publish a book of his drawings to raise awareness for Sepsis Trust. 

Sepsis, if caught early, can be treated with antibiotics; it's symptoms, such as fever, sickness, blotchy skin and dizziness, can easily be mistaken for other illnesses. 

Gary, who worked with Disney, has taken a step away to look after the kids. 

"Lily and Ben had just lost the most central person in their life, and I needed to step up to take her place and make sure that the life went on as normally as possible for them so they didn't feel they'd lost everything.

"As an adult, you look back with nostalgia and grieve for the past and what you've lost, but children live in the here and now. They feel the pain, cry and then ask: 'What's for tea?'

"Life had to carry on. So, yes, there were tears of sadness but also acceptance. One book was closing and another chapter was opening with just the three of us, instead of four." 

Joy now features as a guiding presence in his doodles, often refers to her as 'doodle wife' on his Twitter account. 

"The Diaries are my therapy. After a bad day, it's like letting off a little bit of steam, opening a pressure valve, and it lets my friends know how I'm doing,' Gary continues.

"There are funny things too. I like the funny, but sometimes there are days when nothing is funny at all and I need to express that as well.

"I still think about Joy all day and every day. The grief is always there in the background. I have days when I want to howl with grief, punch the sofa and scream: 'Why?' Then I put those feelings away, because I owe it to the children — and to Joy — to make sure their lives remain happy and normal.

"Joy was the most amazing mother, so when I feel overwhelmed, I just ask myself: 'What would Joy do?' I keep telling the kids: 'Let me know if I'm not doing it right.'" 

Despite the preventable nature of sepsis, Gary doesn't function with the 'what-ifs'? 

"Blame and 'what ifs' won't bring Joy back. Would she still be alive if I hadn't been in Canada and a doctor had been called a day earlier? I can't think about things like that. What happened has happened and you just have to come to terms with it.

"I just want to move forward, to honour Joy's memory and bring up our kids in a way she would have approved of." 

Search results for
View all