A mum whose daughter was born early so she could meet her dying father says the little girl “adores” her dad and kisses his picture.
Tragic Jamie Hunter died just two days after Harper-May was born in May last year, after Beccy Flint delivered her early.
Jamie, who was diagnosed with incurable cancer while Beccy was pregnant, has been described as a “true legend”, and Beccy said he would have been an amazing dad.
Beccy says that Harper-May looks just like her dad and she ‘absolutely adores him’, going and kissing his pictures and waving bye-bye to him when they visit his grave.
More than £75,000 was raised for the family as a huge outpouring of grief was shared for Jamie, a teacher and football coach, who had touched so many people’s lives.
Beccy has kept all the messages and is putting them into a scrapbook for Harper-May to read when she’s older so ‘she can see how amazing her daddy was.’
Today, Beccy opens up for the first time about how she coped with the loss of her partner while caring for a newborn in lockdown – and that precious moment when Jamie got to cuddle his little girl.
“I don’t know what I would have done if he’d have gone before she was born,” said Beccy, from Sutton Coldfield.
“At least they met and we have lots of memories and photos of that moment – I didn’t expect for a single second that it would all happen so quickly after that.
“He seemed OK but then the next day when I came home, there was such a deterioration. It was like he’d seen her and he’d stopped fighting, like he’d been hanging on just to see her.
“The moment we got home, he looked at us and smiled and then things just got worse from that moment. He just let go.”
Beccy had had a Casearian section and was struggling to get around. It was just as the first lockdown measures were starting to ease so social contact was still extremely limited.
“It was horrific,” said Beccy, whose older children are aged 19, 17, 16, 12 and nine.
“When you think about it, it’s hard to believe it actually happened. I didn’t know how I would get through it. I just held Harper all the time and dedicated myself to her and that’s what I’ve done ever since.”
She describes little Harper-May as a ‘happy little soul’ who looks just like her daddy.
“I see so much of Jamie in her,” she said. “She’s so much like him. When she smiles, she has his smile.
“We have lots of photos around and you can tell she absolutely adores him. She kisses his photos. A friend had a drawing made of a photo of him and when Harper saw it, she went straight to it and kissed it.
“It’s like she knows and that’s so nice. We go to his grave to see him and she’s so happy. I say wave bye bye to daddy and she waves and blows kisses.
“It’s nice to know they have that bond. I talk to her about him all the time.”
Every month that Harper gets a bit bigger is a reminder to Beccy that another month has passed since she lost her beloved partner.
“It’s difficult every day,” said Beccy, who will be spending Mother’s Day with all of her children except her eldest who is at university.
“It’s been a year since we found out he had cancer and ten months since he passed away. Every month is another month since he has gone. It was hard to have the birth then be hit by that sadness.
“Harper is a happy little soul and I try to keep her really happy.
“Mother’s Day will be bittersweet for me but then a lot of days have been over the last ten months.
“In the pandemic, things have been really tough. It’s been hard for my other children too. My youngest has known Jamie all her life. They’re all handling it differently but they’ve really helped.”
The couple had been over the moon to find they were expecting their first child at the end of May 2020. But, in October 2019, Jamie started to suffer a crippling pain in his side and, after lots of tests and scans to try to find out what was wrong, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in March.
“It all happened so quickly,” said Beccy, who went to school with Jamie and then got together with him years later when her eldest son started playing football for his team.
“We were so happy when I was pregnant, then a month later Jamie was taken to hospital. Even then to everyone else it was nothing serious, they kept saying he’ll get better.”
“When I was 28 weeks pregnant, Jamie was given 12 months to live,” she said.
“You start to get your head round that, thinking he will have Christmas and birthday, and then a week later, they said he might not make it to the birth, which was the due to be the end of May.
“That’s when I asked the doctors if I could bring the birth forward. There was still a worry he might not make that date so our whole focus was on getting Harper here.
“It was the start of lockdown so we couldn’t let anyone in the house. I was looking after Jamie and my other children and I was eight months pregnant.
“You realise you’ve got to find the strength to do what it takes and that strength comes from love. If you didn’t completely love that person then you wouldn’t be able to get through it.
“Afterwards I was very much on my own because of the pandemic. Having my other children with me has helped. I’ve been walking a lot too, I find that really helps to keep me going.”
Beccy is doing a sponsored walk for the John Taylor Hospice, which helped Jamie when he was ill. You can make a donation via her JustGiving page here.
“Myself and Harper-May will be walking in March in memory of our amazing man – well, I’ll be walking Harper will be pushed,” she smiled.
“Jamie was the most amazing man and would have been the best daddy in the world. We want to do this so that every step we make we know it will be for her daddy. John Taylor Hospice gave Jamie the most amazing care during his short battle with cancer and we can’t thank them enough.
“With their help and Jamie’s determination he was able to meet his daughter, I will be forever grateful to them.”
Jamie’s friend Phil Taylor set up a JustGiving page for Beccy and the baby. It raised more than £75,000, mostly from people whose lives Jamie had touched.
“I was really surprised by how much was raised,” said Beccy. “I was shocked that people were contacting me from all over the world. I’m saving it for Harper-May for when she is older.
“I never knew the extent of what he did. He never used to talk about it, it was just his way.”
“It wasn’t until he passed away and I got so many messages from past pupils, present pupils and people from football who said he’d changed their lives by what he did for them,” she said.
“I’ve kept all those messages and I’m putting them into a scrapbook for Harper for when she’s older so she can see how amazing her daddy was.”