Claire Millar: Wife, soulmate, friend - husband’s tribute as 850 mourn Ards teacher
The devastated husband of a primary school teacher who died from cancer has said his "heart is broken" following the loss of his "wife, soulmate and best friend".
Over 850 mourners turned out at First Presbyterian Church in Newtownards yesterday for the funeral of popular mother-of-two Claire Millar (48), whose family will "miss her every second of every day".
Mrs Millar, a teacher at Abbey Primary School for 28 years and a member and coach at Ards Ladies Hockey Club, was given the all-clear in July but the illness returned and she passed away peacefully at home on Saturday.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph Colin, the father of their two sons - Conor (22) and Ryan (19) - said Newtownards native Claire was "amazing" right up until the end and "beautiful both inside and outside".
"Claire brought love, joy, hope and happiness to everyone who met her," he said. "She loved life and she lived her life to the max and never sat down."
Mr Millar (53) said his wife of almost 25 years had a very strong faith and instructed them "not to mope around feeling sorrow" when she was gone.
"She told the three of us that she wasn't afraid," he said.
"She said she just didn't want to leave us; before she died we told her we wouldn't forget her.
"She told our boys to get their degrees and she said she'd left pieces of her jewellery for when they get married or have daughters. And she told me to keep going and do what I want to do and to live my life because tomorrow is not guaranteed."
He added: "We promised to dedicate a Christmas tree to her so she'll be with us every year. We're going to donate a trophy in her name to Ards Ladies Hockey Club and playpark equipment to Abbey Primary. We also promised her that us three boys will meet up the first week of Easter every year until I die - no matter if the boys get married - and we'll spend the week together remembering her."
The principal at Killard House School in Donaghadee revealed that his pet name for wife Claire, who was "fit, a very healthy eater, who never smoked, drank alcohol, or ate rubbish," was Mrs List. "She was so organised; the night before her funeral I knocked over a few things when I was going to bed and out came this wee notebook," he said.
"It read 'Things to do Colin when I'm dead'. She had noted all the direct debits I had to cancel, the next page contained a typical weekly shopping list, then there was a menu of what the boys would eat for their dinner but then it stopped because obviously she was rushed to the hospital."
The father-of-two said Claire was initially diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in May 2016 after she found a lump but thought she had beaten her illness.
"She had chemotherapy, surgery in January, radiotherapy in February and March and then she got the all-clear at the start of July and she was starting her life again," he added.
"We had a fantastic holiday in America and when we came back she started teaching and taking her hockey club ... then she took stomach pains. Following a scan, she told me the cancer had gone to her liver and spleen."
He added: "She went downhill rapidly. The end was so quick. I was in tears. She threw her arms around me and she told me it was going to be alright."
Yesterday, children from Abbey Primary School released balloons in her memory at the school gate, which Mr Millar said "she would've loved".
He added: "One of her pupils, five-year-old James, came out to our house with a card the night before the funeral and he asked me to make sure she takes it to Heaven with her and to tell her he loved her."
And he said: "The day Claire died Amazon delivered 30 wee see-through, coloured bags to the house; she was getting ready to make the Christmas presents up for her pupils for the last day of school."
In January 2014, Mr Millar spent a month in a coma in a London hospital after contracting swine flu and collapsing on a flight home from China.
"Claire was my rock and she got me through that," he said. "I tried my best to get her through this but it wasn't to be. She just told me God saved me because He knew the boys needed a parent."