Belfast Telegraph

Kate Gross' husband: 'Even though she's gone, Kate still influences life for me and boys'

By Staff Reporter

The Belfast-born husband of Kate Gross, the former top civil servant and charity CEO who died on Christmas Day from cancer, has spoken in depth for the first time about life without her.

Billy Boyle, who grew up in the west of the city, said their twin five-year-old boys, Oscar and Isaac, had proved a great comfort, but he still had many desperately low moments.

The 36-year-old widower said: "Overall, we are getting on with things. Five-year-olds live in the present. They force a huge amount of normality that makes it easier for the grown-ups to manage.

"In the evening the boys are running about and I am having a great time. The sound of their laughter floats down and helps when I am sitting on the sofa. But then they go to sleep. It gets quieter. And sadder. And the sadness creeps in."

Kate Gross was outstandingly talented. At just 26, a Downing Street aide during Tony Blair's time in power, she was writing the Queen's Speech at the state opening of Parliament. Later, she received an OBE for her work with the Africa Governance Initiative, a charity which achieved great change in many of the world's poorest countries.

But it was her brilliant and deeply affecting writing about her diagnosis of terminal colon cancer which brought her to the attention of the wider public across the UK.

In a series of newspaper articles which formed the basis of her extraordinary memoir, Late Fragments, published days after her death at 36, Kate reflected on what it means to die young - all the while driving home the point of what it means to be alive. While the book is ostensibly a love letter to her sons and husband, it offers a profound insight into what really matters - beautifully interwoven with a brilliant knowledge of literature.

Cambridge University engineering graduate Billy co-founded Owlstone Nanotech, which has developed a diagnostic tool that can detect colon cancer early. The breakthrough was too late for his wife, but he hopes it will save others.

Speaking to The Times, Billy, who lives with his sons in Cambridge, reflected on what it had been like to care for his wife through her illness.

"It was probably the most important thing I have ever done. Caring for someone like that is part and parcel of love."

And he revealed that Kate had also left him a series of secret notes to read after she was gone. He said: "Some are practical - where to find the dishwasher manual. But some are 'How to be'. She says she wants the house to be a place of laughter, not sadness. So that sticks a rocket up my a**e every day. I have to do that, for her, for the boys."

  • Late Fragments: Everything I Want To Tell You (About This Magnificent Life) by Kate Gross, published by William Collins, RRP £14.99

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