“Five years ago I stood at that exact same location and put a ring on my wife’s finger – that ring was supposed to be there forever, not handed back to me by a surgeon.”
James and Andrea Lehane had big plans for their small family.
But, their dreams were shattered on September 23 – on what should have been just an another day – when Andy was mowed down in a tragic hit-run while going to the local shops.
The 34-year-old was left for dead on a Carrum Downs pedestrian crossing after allegedly being hit by a teenager on an unregistered monkey bike.
Her husband, James, told A Current Affair he was still trying to rebuild a life for himself and their two children, four-year-old Ashley and three-year-old Heath.
“I go to bed at night, roll over and give her (Andy) a cuddle. She’s not there,” he says.
“Her leaving just so instantly is just something that I never thought I’d have to contemplate. It’s like half of me, and my life, is just gone. Every single thing in my life revolved around the girl.
“Things were just looking so good for us, life was just starting to come together… everything was so good, until that afternoon.
“Who dies shopping?”
On that fateful afternoon, Andy had gone to buy a steak and some nappies. She was planning on catching up with some nursing friends that evening.
James recalls their final conversation. He said: “Have a good night love. Have a good night with your friends.
“She said: ‘Yes I will, and, ‘I love you’. I said: ‘I love you back’…that was the last time”.
You can watch a snippet of the interview below, or the full thing here:
Had he known it would be their final conversation, he says: “It would have been a long one, I would have discussed our lives to date, I would have talked about the kids, I would have talked about what we had achieved… so many things.”
Instead, the next call came from a stranger from Andy’s mobile phone, saying she was involved in an accident.
James says he knew when he saw his wife in hospital after surgery that her injuries were “too great” to overcome.
“I just knew then, she wasn’t with us anymore,” he says.
“I told her I was going to look after the kids. I told her I was going to raise them right, raise them how she wanted them to be raised, told her I was going to be the mum and the dad now. And then we had to go out.”
The family decided the children should be able to see their mother, no matter her condition, and the senior nurse agreed.
“She let them sit on Andrea, let them touch her, and they just thought mummy was sleeping,” Andy’s mother Opal told the program.
James says he found himself sitting at Andy’s funeral in the front row of the church in which they were married five years earlier.
“Five years ago I stood at that exact same location and put a ring on my wife’s finger,” he said.
“That ring was supposed to be there forever, not handed back to me by a surgeon.”
He said their children were too young to realise what had happened – a blessing and a frustration.
“I was speaking to a professional the other day and apparently under the age of seven our brains are just not developed enough to comprehend death and I’m really seeing that,” he said.
“I think in a way it’s sort of frustrating because I want them to be with me in my mind and feel what I’m feeling but at the same time I don’t and it’s kind of a blessing in a way.”
James, who re-mortgaged their home to fund his small sign business, said he was trying to focus on raising their children the way Andy wanted and making ends meet, rather than any negativity.
An 18-year-old is facing charges, including culpable driving, over the fatal incident and two other teens have been charged with lesser offences.
James says he was trying not to be bitter about what happened to his wife.
“I was 18 and young and stupid and did some dumb things too,” he says.
His focus was building a new life and remembering his loving wife, taken far too soon.
He said, in his tribute: “I basically told her I’ll love her forever, I’ll love her forever. And I will.”
Rotary have set up an appeal to raise funds for the family, called the Andrea Lehane Family Trust. You can donate here.