MARIA Challis knew that when her husband Paul died at the age of 38 he would never have wanted to be remembered with sadness.
So she came up with a unique way of keeping his larger than life personality alive – a 6ft 1in life-size cut-out of Paul stands in the Ness home the 35-year-old shares with their two children, Molly, nine and seven-year-old Jack.
His 2D persona has even been to weddings and parties.
Maria, of Haddon Lane, Ness said: “He’s holding a bottle of champagne and laughing and that’s Paul to a tee.
“Some people might raise eyebrows but who is anyone to say what is the right and wrong way to deal with grief?
“I did it for his funeral and then couldn’t bear to part with it.
“The children even dressed him up in a Santa outfit at Christmas. He was due to be best man at a friend’s wedding some weeks after he died. He didn’t make it but his cut-out did and it was nice to think he was there.
“I do get sad, of course I do, and I’d give all the money in the world to have him back – but I can’t and the best way to deal with that is to talk about him. He wouldn’t thank me for being morose.”
In 2000, the couple launched their own business, Fascia Direct Ltd, and moved to their dream home near Ness Gardens.
But by Christmas 2008, Paul began to suffer headaches, followed by numbness in his right arm.
He was prescribed tablets, including beta-blockers and Prozac, but nothing worked and on February 7, 2009 he suffered a fit.
He underwent scans at both Arrowe Park Hospital and Walton Centre for Neurology before the diagnosis was confirmed – Paul had two inoperable brain tumours and his prognosis ran to weeks rather than months.
Maria said: “I turned to him and said: ‘bloody typical, you have to have two, don’t you?’ but I was utterly shocked to the core.”
He began a course of chemotherapy but died in July 2009 and, true to form, had organised his own unique funeral.
“He arrived in a white camper van so people could see him coming. They clapped him in,” says Maria.
His song choices included Another One Bites the Dust and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life while his wake, complete with DJ and singer, attracted guests from a nearby wedding reception because the party was better.
Maria said: “I knew the hardest bit was going to be afterwards and that’s true; we’ve all struggled this past year.
“But if I ever did give in I know Paul would be watching and thinking: ‘stop wimping around’.”