Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Blair aide Kate Gross told her Belfast husband to find love again as she lay dying of cancer

By Joanne Sweeney

Kate Gross touchingly gave her Belfast-born husband permission to love again after her death.

But while she envisaged her husband's need to move on, the young mother also admitted that she was "haunted" by the thought of the "non-existent woman".

In her final media interview before dying, the 36-year-old cancer victim spoke of her passing, her family's future and her need to provide for them when she was not there.

The former private secretary to Tony Blair when he was in power was interviewed by The Times Magazine in November for an article published at the weekend.

In it, she spoke of how she imagined her peaceful passing with her husband beside her in bed reading to her from her beloved books.

At that time she believed that she had between one and six months left to live.

She died in the early hours of Christmas morning, just minutes before her twin five-year-old sons awoke to open their presents.

The high-flying career woman revealed how it was her husband Billy Boyle who broke the news that she had terminal cancer to her two years ago.

Within 19 days of receiving the shocking diagnosis, the Northern Ireland man set up a blog for his wife to write about her illness.

The blog articles are now featured in a new book, Late Fragments, with sales funding the travel adventures that Kate had intended to share with her sons, as her own parents had done for her.

Kate's story of her love for her family, of life and her illness has resonated with readers in Northern Ireland and throughout the rest of the UK.

In the moving final interview, she tells how she and Billy still argued as a couple and how she had some financial concerns for her family as she had not taken out life insurance before she fell ill.

She spoke of how she saw her husband "feeling this immense grief" in the days and weeks leading up to her death and how it was right for her to spend her remaining time with Billy and sons Isaac and Oscar.

"I have to spend time with Billy or the boys or both every day, or I don't feel that it was been worthwhile," Kate said.

She mentioned in the interview of how she had given Billy permission to love again "in the fullness of time", but her husband could not speak of it with her.

While being pragmatic regarding Billy finding someone in the future, she also spoke of being "haunted" by this prospect.

She said: "I imagine her in my kitchen, telling the boys off for some teenage incursion. My job. I am haunted by this non-existent woman." Kate also described how her illness had taken her relationship with Billy to a new level as she had to show him her vulnerability of "being in pain and having to ask him for so much".

Late Fragments: Everything I Want to Tell You (About this Magnificent Life) is available to order from Amazon priced at £10.49.

Background

Kate Gross was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer two years ago after initially been thought to have Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms. She went through two operations, six months of chemotherapy and enjoyed a brief remission before she died on Christmas Day at her home. She was CEO of Africa Governance Initiative, a charity she set up with Tony Blair (right) to provide strategic advice to post-conflict countries. Her family - husband Billy Boyle from Belfast, twins sons Isaac and Oscar - live in Cambridge, England. Mr Boyle is a co-founder of a technology start-up company and is a Cambridge engineering graduate.

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