Keeping a diary is a common and therapeutic habit, allowing an order to the cluttered thoughts and emotions that occur throughout our daily lives. Naturally, if you are an animator, your diary can take on a visual format to become a ‘doodle diary.’

This is what former Disney illustrator Gary Andrews started doing on his 54th birthday, as a happily married father-of-two, documenting the joy of family life with his beautiful wife and children. Sadly, tragedy was to strike and Gary would become a widower and a single parent within 3 years.

While away on a work trip to Canada, Gary’s wife Joy fell ill with what they thought was a simple flu. However, it soon became apparent that it was much more serious than that, and Gary rushed home to be near his beloved. On arrival back in the UK he received the devastating news: Joy had passed away from sepsis.

Completely shell-shocked from the sudden onset of the illness and Joy’s tragic death, Gary struggled to find a way to respond to his overwhelming grief. He opened up his notebook and let his emotions pour out onto the pages. “I was crying so hard it was difficult to focus on the page. I was drawing through tears,” he told the Daily Mail. “Joy had been my soulmate for 19 years. She was beautiful, kind, generous and funny. We did everything together. When I lost her, I felt half of me had gone.”

Throughout the grieving process, Gary continued with his doodle diary, recording the ups and downs, the good days and the bad. The process of putting his thoughts and emotions down on paper helped him to cope, by allowing him to vent his feelings. Joy is a recurring part of his doodles, and he also manages to capture the continuing happiness and fun that his children bring to his life, navigating the world of being a single parent.

Sepsis is a silent killer, and Gary hopes to raise awareness for an illness that is often regarded as an afterthought for many doctors. Its symptoms, including fever, sickness, blotchy skin and dizziness, are often mistaken for other illnesses and not recognised until too late. If captured early on, it can be treated with simple antibiotics. Gary doesn’t blame anyone for Joy’s death however, it was simply bad luck. “From the minute Joy was admitted to hospital, specialists from every department tried to find out what was wrong,’ he says. “They couldn’t have done more. It wasn’t until the post-mortem that they narrowed it down to sepsis.”

“Blame and ‘what ifs’ won’t bring Joy back. Would she still be alive if I hadn’t been in Canada and a doctor had been called a day earlier? I can’t think about things like that. What happened has happened and you just have to come to terms with it. I just want to move forward, to honour Joy’s memory and bring up our kids in a way she would have approved of.”

Scroll down below to see some of Gary’s poigant doodles for yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments.

More info: Twitter

Shell-shocked from the sudden death of his wife, Gary struggled to find a way to respond to his overwhelming grief

He started drawing some doodles in his journal to document the daily life without his soulmate and found that expressing his emotions helped a bit

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Image credits: GaryScribbler

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