4 Aug 2013

I still expect Phil to walk through the door': Kate and her husband had twin sons and successful careers. So when he suddenly died at 30, her world turned upside down

With twin sons and successful careers, Kate Standing and her husband Phil had everything to live for. So when Phil died suddenly from an undetected genetic condition, Kate’s world turned upside down
Kate with Phil on their wedding day in August 2007
Kate with Phil on their wedding day in August 2007
When Kate Standing kissed her husband Philip goodbye on an ordinary Thursday morning in June last year, she had no idea it was the last time she’d see him alive. As the parents of 18-month-old identical twins Ben and Oliver, and both with successful careers – he as a chartered accountant in the City and she as a teacher – their day started early.
‘Phil’s alarm went off at 5.45am. He got up to shower and then we went together to wake up the boys. He helped me get them washed and dressed and I gave them their milk while Phil had his cereal.’
Phil was laughing and joking as he headed off to the station. ‘I was getting the boys ready to go to the childminder. He had forgotten his tie and he ran back up the stairs for it and leant across the stairgate to give us all an extra kiss.’
Later that day, Philip collapsed and died suddenly from a heart attack. He had been playing cricket with colleagues on a team-building trip to Lord’s on the day he died. He was just 30 years old.
‘People asked me afterwards, “Did you have a good morning?” Well, we never had a bad one. We never had a cross word,’ says the slight 32-year-old, sitting on the sofa in the home they shared in Caterham, Surrey. Next to her is her mother-in-law Sue, 61, who stays over once a week and takes the boys swimming every Wednesday. In the background the twins – now two and a half and tucked up in bed – can be heard still chattering to each other over the baby monitor.
‘Philip and I met in our final year at the University of Warwick. I was captain of the netball team and Phil was captain of the football team. Because we had a similar outlook on life, it was all very easy. We were both very driven at work but we knew how to enjoy life as well,’ says Kate.
Kate and her identical twins Ben (left) and Oliver
Kate and her identical twins Ben (left) and Oliver
Phil graduated with a first in maths, operational research and statistics, walking straight into a job at Ernst & Young. ‘We realised pretty quickly our relationship was serious because we couldn’t bear to be apart when Phil was posted to Southampton for the first few months. He asked to be transferred to London so he could be with me,’ says Kate.
Phil worked long hours during the week, but he devoted weekends to his family. ‘He wasn’t doing it for money,’ says Kate. ‘He wanted us to be comfortable and that was it. It was more about doing the job well.’
‘I promised I would look after the boys, told him how sad I was and how much I loved him’
In the family’s homely living room, an oversize print of their twin boys illustrates the next happy step in the couple’s life together. ‘We both knew we wanted children and we were such planners,’ says Kate. ‘We had a spreadsheet for when we were allowed to try for a baby to make sure we could afford it. We’d already decided on the cot and buggy we wanted before I had my 12-week scan, so it blew the spreadsheet out of the window when we found out that we were having twins!’
The twins were born five weeks premature and spent a week in neonatal care. Kate and Philip found the first few weeks tough but they got into a routine and things became much easier. ‘Phil was so hands-on with the boys. Because he worked such long hours, when he was home he wanted to be changing nappies and playing with them. With twins you get a lot of attention and he was so proud of them. He was very good at showing his appreciation for everything I did, too.’
Kate with Phil¿s mother Sue
Kate with Phil's mother
Phil with the twins shortly after they came home from hospital, October 2010
Phil with the twins shortly after they came home from hospital, October 2010
The pair had already decided that this would be the year they’d try for a third child. ‘I’m one of three and always wanted a big family. We’d even chosen a car big enough for three car seats,’ she smiles.
Instead, Kate found herself organising a funeral for her husband in the same church where they had got married five years earlier and where the twins had been christened. ‘The hardest thing was walking down the aisle behind Phil’s coffin, thinking that the last time I had walked down it was with my dad on my wedding day.’
Phil had been only six months into a secondment to Lloyds bank when he died, and he already got on very well with his new workmates. As well as all his colleagues at Ernst & Young, his entire office at Lloyds were among the 500 mourners at his funeral.
It was during a light-hearted game of cricket that Phil complained of feeling unwell and went to sit down. A friend offered him a bottle of water, but before he could take a sip he fell off the chair face first and began convulsing. Despite efforts from his colleagues and paramedics, who arrived on the scene in three-and-a-half minutes, he never regained consciousness and died in hospital an hour later.
‘It was very traumatic for his work friends to witness and many of them came round to see us in the days afterwards and have been again since,’ says Kate. ‘One of the girls told us she held Phil’s hand until he was put in the ambulance, which was a comfort to us. They followed the ambulance to the hospital and I think they thought he was going to be fine, so it was very hard for them.’
The police came to break the news to Kate that evening. ‘The doorbell rang and I was slightly concerned because there had been a spate of burglaries and I was actually relieved when I saw the police. The first thing they asked me was, ‘Are you on your own?’ I assumed Phil had just been taken ill, but when they said, ‘Let’s go in and sit down’, I just knew. I was in complete shock, I don’t think I even cried. I rang my mum straight away – she only lives down the road and she came immediately. Then I rang Sue.

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