STEPHEN Mackinson should have been celebrating the start of his married life to Toyin Adefioye this week.
But instead, he held a memorial event to celebrate the life of his tragic 44-year-old fiancee.
The couple were due to marry on board HMS Trincomalee, at Hartlepool Maritime Experience, on Friday, June 8.
But Stephen’s dreams were shattered on July 1 last year when Toyin died suddenly after suffering a brain aneurysm, as previously reported by the Hartlepool Mail.
Stephen arranged for 35 family and friends to gather at the Staincliffe Hotel, in Seaton Carew, last Saturday, the day after the couple were due to wed.
He had spent the last three months arranging the event, which saw Toyin’s friends travel from as far as London and also involved the attendance of the minister who conducted Toyin’s funeral, Jenny Pryde, who gave prayers and a blessing.
The afternoon, which included a meal, raised £300, through donations, for Hartlepool Bereavement Service, whose founder, Linda Parker, also attended.
Stephen, who lives in Park Road, Hartlepool, but moved to town from Peterlee four years ago, said: “The day was pretty sad and mournful because obviously we had so much to look forward to.
“But it was a day of celebration, a chance for everyone to come together, a day to remember Toyin.
“It was a great day and even though there was emotion, there was a lot of strength from knowing the people there were people that loved Toyin.”
Describing the day before the event, when he should have been marrying his sweetheart, he said: “‘What if?’ is going through your mind a lot and the idea was to throw myself into being busy for the day so I went to work.
“But obviously there were times inevitably where my mind would wander.
“We were due to get married at 4pm on the Friday and it was certainly an opportunity to reflect.”
Stephen, 48, a company director for Durham-based construction firm Esh Group, where Toyin was a human resources manager, is now a committee member with Hartlepool Bereavement Service, who helped him cope with his grief.
He said: “When you read books on bereavement, they say the worst thing is the fear of the day of a landmark event, rather than the event itself.
“I got lots of support throughout the day, through texts, emails and phone calls.”
Stephen, who is dad to William, 22, and Sarah, 18, lovingly arranged all the details of the memorial lunch, from devising the menu, to designing invitations.
The money raised boosts the £1,100 Stephen, William and their colleagues amassed on a charity bike ride from Hartlepool to Sunderland and back, as reported by the Mail.
Linda added: “It was a lovely thing for Stephen to organise this event and marvellous that he helped us again.”