It was the final act of a horrific disease - idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis - that saw my husband slowly suffocate to death as his lungs slowly filled with fibrosis, letting less and less air into them, robbing him of his physical strength and dignity along the way.
He died two days before his 65th birthday - which means that forever more I will have to deal with the anniversary of his death just two days before remembering his birthday. It's not easy.
Nor is living without him. But time is a great healer... isn't it?
No, actually, it isn't. Time does not heal a broken heart!
So it's just as well I didn't sit around watching the clock, waiting to be healed, but took matters into my own hands, determined not to be a cliche widow; determined John's death wasn't going to claim two lives - although it was a very close call on a number of occasions.
None more so than when, a month after he died, I felt life truly had lost all its meaning and decided to drive off to Barton Bridge to end my misery.
I did not imagine then that I could be as happy as I am this morning! So thank heavens I didn't rule out that possibility! My life today truly is great!
So just how did I get from the worst of times to the best of times so quickly?!!
Well, I believe the journey actually started 3 years before John died.
At about the same time as John's illness was showing itself, I was transitioning.
No matter what you might read elsewhere, transitioning is an act of great courage and requires great fortitude (aka stubbornness) to withstand all the prejudice that surrounds gender, plus the emotional and physical changes that hormone therapy have on you.
I failed at my first attempt. It's not surprising considering what was going on in my life at that time but I expressed my anger and dismay in the worst possible way and I'm still paying the price.
However, the stubbornness I harnessed in transitioning from male to female was also put into service transitioning to widowhood.
But stubbornness isn't enough on its own. To be of any real use, it requires an effective plan to work on.
My plan was broad in its ambition - learn how to live without the man I love - but it acquired detail after reading Widows Wear Stilettos.
It was in those pages I found encouragement to express myself rather than bottle it all up. It was in those pages I found web addresses for support groups. It was in those pages that I learned about energy drainers and the importance of surrounding myself with positivity. It was in those pages that I found encouragement to put my happiness first before everything.
Being selfish didn't always give me instant gratification but it did make me popular by the very fact I distanced myself from those I wasn't popular with. Finding happiness is so much harder when people are encouraging you to be miserable!
I also moved in a literal sense - from Preston to Wallasey.
Sadly, that has meant seeing some people who meant so much to me - people, like Jayne W and Rachel L, who took personal responsibility for making sure I was OK in the immediate aftermath of John's death - less often than I would like.
But the upside is I'm now a homeowner who loves her job and the people she works with. I'm also a woman* who has found a warm welcome in Merseyside totally unlike that which I found in Preston and I'm now a woman* surrounded by love rather than loneliness.
Is it any wonder that, when I'm loved just the way I am, that I've now found my voice as a creative person!
A voice that first began to flourish right in the depths of my grief when I'd been on my way to commit suicide on Barton Bridge but ended up in Harrogate instead, being taught how to express myself through art journaling. A voice that grew louder when I learned to project it in song. A voice that gained strength when I realised it wasn't just my voice but the voice of a choir of women*. A voice that became determined when I learned just how important it was that others - particularly our little Sistas - heard it. And there is nothing more rewarding than being rewarded for giving voice to your truth!
But, as great and as helpful as all the above is, the biggest single influence on life continues to be John himself.
I would never have been able to transition in all the ways that I have without his love and support. And it is the thought of how upset he'd be if I threw everything back in his face that pushes me forward and won't allow me to quit.
However, the thing I find hardest to reconcile is that I'm the person I am and reaping the rewards I am because of John's influence but, yet, he's not here to see it.
Nor will he see what happens next...
Coming Soon: Claire actualises her sensuality as a woman*. Claire gets herself a girlfriend. And, not to be missed, Claire accepts without reservation that she is brave, inspiring and, above all, lovely! So stay tuned and don't touch that dial!
*The asterisk is used to signify the infinite array of women there are in the universe.