A bride who was wed and widowed in just 48 days has spoken movingly about the surprise gift she received from beyond the grave, after her husband lost his long and painful battle with cystic fibrosis, which she also has.
Dying peacefully on the morning of January 23, due to complications relating to the genetic lung disease, Darren Easton, 24, had asked a mutual friend to give Lauren, his new wife and childhood sweetheart a special teddy, which spoke with his voice.
Lauren, 24, a hairdresser, who married mechanic Darren on December 6, 2018, in Harefield Hospital, Hillingdon, Greater London, where he passed away, said:
“Just after Darren died a friend of ours, Sarah Cherryman, came over and gave me a huge teddy bear.”
“I was still very upset and didn’t really understand, but she said, ‘Give it a squeeze,’ and when I did it was Darren’s voice saying, ‘Hi baby, just saying I love you and I miss you. You’ll be my world forever and always’.”
“It was so thoughtful of him to have done that for me, because I was worried about forgetting the sound of his voice and now I never will.”
“The teddy sits in Darren’s place on the sofa at home and I squeeze him whenever I want to hear him again.”
Out at a restaurant together, 2018 (PA Real Life/GoFundMe)
Lauren, who slept by her husband’s side on a camp bed at Harefield Hospital while he was treated there in the final two months of his life, fell in love with Darren after they met at 16 as patients at Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea, west London.
Both suffering with CF, a lifelong inherited condition causing sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system, they became a couple on New Year’s Eve 2015 whilst watching fireworks from their hospital window—getting engaged three months later, after Darren’s condition worsened, forcing him to have a lung transplant.
“We both knew that we wouldn’t live long lives and we’ll always be unwell,” Darren said in December 2018.
“But we thought, ‘What’s the point of being unwell and unhappy apart when we could be unwell together?’”
Darren and Lauren after the wedding ceremony (PA Real Life/Maria Ashby-Giles Photography)
And when doctors told Darren on November 27 2018 that he had just weeks to live, the couple, who could not afford to get married, launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding page—meaning strangers, touched by their love story, helped pay for their dream wedding.
Darren’s last wish was fulfilled, when he made Lauren his bride at a ceremony held in the hospital on December 6.
Although his health was failing rapidly, amazingly, Darren far exceeded the few weeks doctors had predicted—going on to welcome in another year with his beloved wife.
Just after Darren’s lung transplant, March 2016 (Collect/PA Real Life)
“I wasn’t surprised at all.”
“If there’s one thing I know about Darren it’s that he’s stubborn. He wasn’t just going to slip away when they told him to.”
“He spent his whole life fighting this illness and would fight it right until the end.”
Despite being unable to walk and struggling greatly with his breathing, he also ticked off some of his final wishes—going to see The Lion King on-stage at the Lyceum Theatre in London, with Lauren, thanks to the charity Willow Tree, which arranged seating for him in his wheelchair.
Darren’s teddy bear gift from beyond the grave (Collect/PA Real Life)
And on Christmas Day, the hospital let him go home to the flat the couple shared in Watford, Hertfordshire, so they could enjoy the day together with their dog Princess.
“I spent the whole time with a big smile on my face, because I was almost able to imagine that nothing was wrong and it was just like old times.”
“I bought Darren a Chelsea football shirt with his nickname Boysie on the back and we had roast beef for lunch, which he enjoyed so much that he asked me to make it again on Boxing Day, just before he went back to the hospital.”
Darren and Lauren’s first dance as man and wife (PA Real Life/Maria Ashby-Giles Photography)
“It was just lovely having him home, if only for a little while.”
But when Darren returned to Harefield, his health continued to deteriorate. Sleeping for longer each day, he needed nursing around the clock to ease his pain.
Lauren recalled times when she was given cruel glimmers of hope, when he improved momentarily, saying:
“Sometimes, on a good day, I’d think to myself that he could go on and on and last forever. ”
Lauren and Darren at their first Christmas together, 2016 (Collect/PA Real Life)
“But even during the worst times he was always positive and always joking, never giving in to the sadness of it all.”
Positive until the end, Darren remained bright even when he was in extreme pain from bowel congestion—a common symptom of CF that would eventually cause his death.
“I remember on the night before he died his gran was helping him get into bed and he turned to her and said, ‘Oh grandma you flirt, you’re not trying to get me into bed are you?’.”
Lauren and Darren’s first cuddle together in over a month since his lung transplant (Collect/PA Real Life)
“Then before we went to sleep that night we said that we loved each other.”
Darren passed away the following morning at 7.20AM, dying peacefully in his sleep as Lauren watched over him.
The news spread quickly among the nurses and hospital staff, who had grown so attached to Darren that Lauren recalled thinking almost immediately after his death:
“How am I going to break this to the nurses who have been so good to him and done so much for us?”
Lauren and Darren at home with their dog princess (Collect/PA Real Life)
With a funeral planned for February 12 at St Mary’s Church in Harefield, Lauren is busy making sure everything is just right for her sweetheart’s final send off.
Despite the enormous pain of her grief, she is working tirelessly to make the funeral perfect, saying she is “doing it for Darren”.
“Everything is a bit of a blur, but I am keeping myself busy with the plans.”
Lauren and Darren at the wedding of Lauren’s best friend, 2018 (PA Real Life/Maria Ashby-Giles Photography)
“He loved motorbikes, so we are going to have a bike hearse and I’m insisting that everyone wears either blue or a Chelsea shirt.”
“He wouldn’t want anyone in black and being sad—that wasn’t him at all, that wasn’t the Darren I knew and loved.”
To donate to the couple’s fund, visit www.gofundme.com/please-help-darren-to-fulfill-his-last-wish