THREE weeks shy of her due date, 37 weeks pregnant Leanne Hill came home to a reality she had never even entertained. Her husband had died, electrocuted by a household appliance.
Holding her five-month-old daughter who will never meet her daddy, the profound grief new mum Leanne carries is betrayed by her deep blue eyes.
It is the eyes that gazed into those of her husband on their wedding day less than a year before he died, the eyes that beheld the face of her daughter for the first time less than a week after she became a widow, and the eyes that will never again see the man she had wanted to grow old with.
"I wake up to the same rollercoaster of emotions every day," she said. "It's like Groundhog Day."
UK born Leanne met Ricki from New Zealand in an Irish pub in an Australian city five years ago.
Four years later, on June 14, they were married. But the couple never got to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
Ricki's life was cut short on May 8 this year, when he was electrocuted while using their vacuum cleaner in their Chambers Flat home.
It is a week Leanne will never forget, and one that will take a long time to completely digest and come to terms with.
Reeling from his sudden death, Leanne made the decision to go in for a caesarean section six days later, to prevent the possibility of going into labour at his funeral.
She also could not face the prospect of going through labour without her husband by her side.
Maisie Ricki Hill came into the world on May 14, and four days later attended her dad's funeral.
"It's not fair on Maisie to grow up with sadness and crying, so I do my best to keep my tears from her and show her happiness and excitement instead," Leanne said.
One look at Maisie and it's clear that against all the odds, 27-year-old widowed Leanne is doing a remarkable job.
The baby girl, who Leanne said embodies so much of the father she will never know, is friendly, interested, happy, alert and full of smiles.
She is also madly in love with her mum. A trait friends say the little girl shares with her late dad.
Leanne is currently in the process of applying for her Australian residency.
While she does this, she is not entitled to any government benefits.
The Changing Lives Project came to hear of Leanne's story and set up a crowd funding campaign in a bid to raise funds to enable the mother and daughter to rebuild their lives.
A charity gala to benefit the pair will also be held on Friday, October 23 from 7pm until midnight at Moda Portside in Hamilton. Tickets are $100.
Councillor Phil Pidgeon has appealed to residents for their support.
"Like a lot of people I know Leanne is struggling financially but no one ever wants to see this happen to anyone and find themselves in the situation she has been left in," Mr Pidgeon said.
For more information on the gala or fundraising campaign email Changing Lives Project project supervisor Sally Morgan.
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