I had fallen in love and wanted to know everything about this incredible man, including what had happened.
Being with someone whose first wife has died – a wife he loved very much – has the potential for a difficult subsequent relationship: a past love that can never be matched (not that it should be a competition), a woman who doesn’t grow old, rosy-hued memories that will only ever gain lustre, worries about comparisons that can’t be checked face to face.
I’ve seen the pictures of their wedding – Tim looking uncomfortable in a suit and Jane in a simple dress and headscarf. But the most remarkable thing I learnt from all those post-breakfast conversations was that Jane made Tim promise that after she’d gone he wouldn’t stay on his own; he would go out and meet someone else.
I learnt that she was shy and quiet and took a long time to get to know someone well. He didn’t want to admit that his wife was going to die but she insisted they talk about it.
She contacted WAY (an organisation for those who are bereaved at a young age), got their leaflets and saved them for him.
His relationship status on the dating website was “widower” and his age 39.
I wasn’t sure that was a combination I wanted to take on, but my sister, who had my login details so she could snoop around on my behalf, thought that the fact that Tim had favourited my profile and he looked nice was enough to “give him a try”.
In the first emails Tim and I sent each other we mentioned previous relationships – my failed marriage and his wife’s death at 36 from breast cancer – but only in a fact-finding kind of way.
And when we met over a pint in a Hampshire pub, we touched on those subjects again but agreed they weren’t right for a first date.
After date number four, when things began to get serious, it was my sister, ironically, who warned me about having a relationship with a man who was probably still grieving.
But during the following weeks Tim slowly told me about Jane’s diagnosis, her illness, the fight she put up and her preparations for death.
They were quiet conversations, for some reason always after Sunday breakfast in the flat Tim had shared with Jane.
They lasted for as long as Tim needed to talk, and I was happy to have them.