‘I got a card from dad on my wedding day - 20 years after his death’

Philip Hargreaves died when his daughter, Freya, was just 11. In the weeks before his death, he wrote a card to be read out on her wedding day

Hannah Van De Peer
Wednesday 04 October 2023 10:42 BST
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Bride receives message from her dad on wedding day, 20 years after his death

A bride received a message from her dad from beyond the grave on her wedding day - 20 years after his death.

Freya Rosati, 32, was just 11 years old when her dad, Philip Hargreaves, died from oesophageal cancer at the age of 53.

But in the weeks before he died, Philip, a pub landlord, wrote nine cards for Freya - eight for birthdays, and a final one for her wedding day.

Her mum, Theresa, 68, read the card to wedding guests in lieu of Philip’s father-of-the-bride speech - leaving everyone in tears.

The card read: “I wish I could be standing next to you, the proudest dad in the world, to walk you down the aisle to the man you love, and to the next chapter in your life.

“Today is your day, enjoy everything about it. Laugh and cry. Be happy and confident.”

Freya, a special effects technician, from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, said: “It was such a sad moment - but so important to me that the card was read out.

“Even looking at his handwriting in that card - it really just felt like he was there, and it was so nice.

Touching card written to Freya from her dad - which she received on her wedding day 20 years after his death.

“He wrote me cards every birthday up until my 18th, then one for my 21st and a final for my wedding day.

“But the wedding day was the most important one.”

Freya - a self-confessed “daddy’s girl” - used to do “everything” with Philip before he died.

He’d take her to dance classes, they would watch films and play games together. If Theresa ever said ‘no’ to Freya, she says her dad would always say ‘yes’.

But in early 2002, he began to complain of constant indigestion - and tests revealed he had terminal oesophageal cancer and just six months to live.

Freya said: “My dad, bless him, would moan a lot if he got ill - even with a cold.

“What’s striking is, once he got seriously ill, he never complained. He was a proper warrior - my big hero.

“He used to get indigestion a lot - he’d take heartburn tablets like candies. But it seemed normal - he was a big guy who loved his food.

Freya during her childhood with her father Philip.

“For some reason, his leg started to swell up a bit - which is when mum decided to take him to the hospital.

“They ran tests and next thing we knew, they were calling her back in, telling her he had cancer of the oesophagus and giving him six months to live.

“He didn’t even have many symptoms - just indigestion and a bit of a stomach ache.

“But he went downhill quickly, losing nine stone in six months.”

Freya and Theresa had to look after Philip on their own during weekdays - with Freya’s brother, Daniel, now 44, coming down from London at weekends.

After Philip died, Theresa and Freya became “best friends” but day-to-day, they struggled.

Freya developed panic attacks throughout her teenage years, and Philip’s presence was missed throughout the family.

Freya says big life events, like her 18th, and introducing her fiance, Michael, 33, to the family, were “bittersweet”.

“It was very, very tough,” Freya added.

“We even had to move back to Oxfordshire - because our peaceful, quiet family life became way too quiet without dad.”

On April 8, 2016, Freya met her now-husband, Michael, at work and five years later, they got engaged.

Freya said: “We got engaged in our fifth year - and we threw ourselves into wedding preparation, but it was hard.

“We went to a lot of wedding fayres and you’re having to speak to photographers and caterers, all of whom are asking you who’s walking you down the aisle, what song you’re having for your dad-daughter dance.

“I had to tell our photographer very early on, it would just be me and my mum. My dad wouldn’t be there.

“You see a lot of videos of that moment - the father-of-the-bride sees you in your dress for the first time and tears up.

Freya (left) and her mumTheresa.

“That, I found quite hard, knowing it wouldn’t happen.”

But Freya was determined to include Philip as much as she possibly could in her big day.

Before he died, Philip gave Freya a diamond necklace - which she wore as “something old” with her dress.

His favourite place to holiday was the island of Antigua - so Freya had steel pans playing her down the aisle.

Photos of Philip were placed on a memory tree outside the venue - and they asked for donations to Macmillan Cancer Support as their wedding favours.

And Philip’s card, written in 2002, was read out during the wedding speeches by Theresa.

The card reads: “I wish I could be standing next to you, the proudest dad in the world, to walk you down the aisle to the man you love, and to the next chapter in your life.

“Today is your day, enjoy everything about it. Laugh and cry. Be happy and confident.

“Face everything full-on. You will then succeed in your life together.

“You gave me some of the proudest moments in my life with your sense of humour, intelligence, understanding and caring nature.

“Don’t ever change. Love you forever, dad.”

Freya “loved” her dad’s card and says it felt like he was “really there”, giving his speech.

She said: “My dad would’ve loved that wedding - just hearing his words, I can imagine him saying them to me.

“He was so ill in the last few weeks of his life - he found writing the cards very overwhelming and tiring, so the wedding day card is the final one.”

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