Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

'We were soulmates' - Mum dies two hours after wedding

Tracy Glover with baby son Keenan McKeowen.
Tracy Glover with baby son Keenan McKeowen.

A mother of three battling aggressive lung cancer married her soulmate - and died two hours later.

Tracy Glover, 42, tied the knot with John McKeowen in front of 100 family members and friends at their Thames home on Saturday.

Mr McKeowen said it was an emotional day. One minute they were celebrating the wedding and the next they were mourning the death of his wife.

John McKeowen and Kelsey Ffowcs Williams (left) and Kyla Ffowcs Williams supporting mother Tracy Glover.
John McKeowen and Kelsey Ffowcs Williams (left) and Kyla Ffowcs Williams supporting mother Tracy Glover.

But the new husband was grateful he found his soulmate because, he said, some people waited a lifetime to meet their one special person. "We were absolute soulmates. Two crazy peas in a far-out pod."

Ms Glover had been bedridden for almost a month and in the last week could not even eat or drink, so he had been uncertain whether she would make it to her wedding.

"She could have passed two hours before, you know, and that would have been OK. I love her and I'd acted as a husband anyway and she had acted as my wife so it is just a bit of paper at the end of it, which is meaningful, of course. But it was awesome how it worked, but two hours later it was like 'phwoa' and everyone was shell-shocked."

The same bagpipes that played at the wedding were used to perform the hymn Amazing Grace. Some guests did a haka and said a karakia.

The couple, who had been together five years, had spoken about getting married but became pre- occupied with the arrival of their baby boy, Keenan, in August.

Then Ms Glover was diagnosed with aggressive, incurable lung cancer, which had spread to her hip, shoulder and liver in November.

In January, Mr McKeowen quit his job as manager of the Seagull Centre reuse shop, where Ms Glover also worked, to care for her and their baby.

Last month, the couple travelled to Taranaki for a week with Ms Glover's daughters, Kyla and Kelsey Ffowcs Williams, aged 18 and 15, and baby Keenan. But Mr McKeowen's plan for a romantic proposal there got delayed.

He went to the beach and scratched the words, "Will you marry me", in the sand. He took a selfie by the words and took his phone back to Ms Glover, who was too sick to leave the campervan, to show her the photos of the beach.

John McKeowen wrote his romantic proposal to Tracy Glover - inset, with son Keenan - in the sand while they were on holiday in Taranaki. Photo / Supplied
John McKeowen wrote his romantic proposal to Tracy Glover - inset, with son Keenan - in the sand while they were on holiday in Taranaki. Photo / Supplied

But just before she reached the proposal photo, she fell asleep.

It wasn't until two weeks later that she finally saw it and by then time was running out. Ms Glover was in a hospital bed set up at their family home in Thames and her health was deteriorating.

"It was touch and go," said Mr McKeowen, a metal artist. "I was building a casket and making a wedding ring at the same time, not knowing what she was going to use first."

After the wedding, Ms Glover's body was taken to her mother's house in Auckland in a handmade casket in the back of her Holden station wagon, which had been her 40th birthday present.

Mr McKeowen said the family were coping and had a lot of support.

"It's been hard for a long time. We are more relieved for Tracy that's she's out of pain and there's no more being in hospitals and being poked and prodded and uncertainty and fear and worry."

An image of an ankh cross, which was a pendant on a necklace Ms Glover always wore from her late father, and her favourite flower daisies had been drawn up by a cousin and both Mr McKeowen and Kyla have used it on tattoos in her memory.

 John McKeowen had a tattoo made on his back to commemorate her passing.
John McKeowen had a tattoo made on his back to commemorate her passing.

"I will miss her honesty and her realness. She was just real and free. She had no hang ups ... She loved everyone. "

The family had been also overwhelmed by the support they were getting from their community.

"The SPCA gave us dog food, the local cafe gave us food vouchers, the local garage gave us free warrants on the car. The pub gives me free beers ... It's just been like that. People just turn up and knock on the door with a meal."

Ms Glover's funeral is at 1.30pm on Thursday at Purewa Crematorium in Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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