Beth Purvis has prepared for this Christmas with the kind of military planning that many mothers employ.
Perfect presents for her two children have been sourced. Festive traditions — in her family’s case, a table called the Christmas Fair, piled high with everyone’s favourite sweets and chocolates, laid out at the start of December but strictly not to be touched until Christmas Day — have been faithfully observed, to the delight of her husband Richard, 49, son Joseph, 12, and daughter Abi, ten.
But this year, Beth has been more organised than ever. She has even created a master spreadsheet of every element of her preparations, right down to the treats used for The Christmas Fair (Toblerone and Turkish delight, among others), as a kind of reference guide to the perfect Purvis family Christmas.
Why is she bothering to be so meticulous? The reason is that Beth has terminal cancer and this Christmas, the doctors have said, is likely to be her last.
‘Everything is itemised on this spreadsheet I’ve made for Richard, so he knows exactly what to buy,’ she says quietly. ‘Next Christmas is going to be hard enough for him without worrying about what to get. ‘No one can imagine being in this situation. Even I can’t really get my head round it. All I know is that nothing — not cancer, not anything — is going to spoil our family Christmas.
‘If this is going to be my last Christmas, I’ll make absolutely sure it’s the happiest ever. I want the children to look back only with joy.’
Her resolve is all the more heartbreaking because Beth, who has advanced bowel cancer, is one of the thousands of hidden victims of coronavirus. It is even possible that, but for Covid, she and her family would not be facing the unthinkable.