Diane Mitchell talks to Woman This Month about losing the love of her life and carrying on in Bahrain as a single mum.
Captain Bob Smith was a man known to many, a former pilot, a good friend, the life and soul of any party and a dedicated husband to Diane and dad to their two boys, David, 12, and Ronan, 13.
In hindsight, Diane says she could see he didn’t look well but his downfall, when it came, was swift and deadly. In February this year the couple welcomed visitors to their Amwaj home and treated them to a trip on their boat, commenting “how wonderful life is”.
A month later, three minor car crashes in succession revealed that Bob was suffering from a cancerous brain tumour. It had affected his sight and proved to be a secondary from other cancers throughout his body. On June 9, he breathed his last with Diane by his side.
Bob died at home, having become, even in his last days, a trailblazer after Diane decided she wanted him to be cared for at home. She says: “It’s not something the Bahrain healthcare system is set up for but I could see he was not happy in the hospital and was desperate to get him home. Initially there were obstacles but, as I was trying to make arrangements, I received a phone call from a high Bahraini official telling me this is the first case of home palliative care and they would help in any way I wished possible.”
A whirlwind of organisation followed Bob’s passing to allow the Bahraini passport holder to be cremated. A long-time family void had been healed during his short illness when he saw his older son and daughter, Laura and Tom, and was overwhelmed with joy. Gulf Air then flew them back for a memorial service at St Christopher’s Cathedral which was packed to overflowing with screens set up in the neighbouring hall and tributes poured in for the man who had touched so many lives with love and laughter.
But, once it was all over, it was time for Diane and her boys to face life without the larger-than-life character who had been so dear to them in the house the couple had built and turned into a home together.
“Friends were unbelievably supportive, in every way possible from the minute Bob got sick. The British Club collected money for us to get away to Thailand,” says Diane. “Initially we were nervous to go but it turned out to be just what we needed, a time to just be peaceful and relax a bit.”
Returning to the island, Diane made the decision to take the boys back to her native Aberdeen for the summer and even considered relocating permanently but she says: “I looked around me and thought about what we have here. This is our home and it’s a great place for kids. Ronan is very into, and has talent for, golf and here he can play every day, although it’s a time when he certainly misses Bob as they used to play together.”
And what does the future hold now for the family? Diane explains: “It’s certainly been a learning experience. I met Bob in my first week at Gulf Air and we had been together 25 years. We married in Mauritius but I discovered our marriage certificate wasn’t valid in Bahrain, so that’s something I would urge everyone to be aware of. We managed to overcome this in Bob’s final weeks.
“After leaving Gulf Air and later Bahrain Air, Bob set up a family company, Blue Chip Contracting and I worked with him in real estate. Now, of course, this is also causing issues to sort out but, with the help of good friends, the formalities are well under control! I also want to get back to my art, which is something that’s really taken a back seat.
“I did think about selling up to return to Scotland, but really, Bahrain is my home, I’ve been here 25 years and my boys have grown up here. With the support of friends, we’re now setting up a golfing tournament named after Bob….as Bob said, it’s the only way he would ever get his name on a trophy! Also to keep Bob’s name alive we are currently trying to set up a football tournament for charity to help others that may end up in the unfortunate situation of needing home palliative care. It is comforting to know Bob’s death was not in vain for me and the boys.”