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  • Life afterAndy

    Three years after the death of the Spartacus star, his widow, Vashti

    Whitfield, honours him by embracing life

    Photographed for WHO by PETER BREW-BEVAN

    Jesses bedroom walls are filled with wonderful messages from all our inspiring family and friends, says Vashti (in Jesses room with the kids on Aug. 3). So when he goes to sleep at night, he is reminded of what life has to offer.

  • Life after Coping

    diagnosed six months earlier, had returned. Outwardly, the buff and towering star of the TV hit Spartacus looked as strong as ever, but his wife knew the battle with the disease had chinked the armour of her soulmate. Eyeing the little tattoo parlour across the road, Vashti said, Ive been thinking about getting a tattoo, Be here now, because thats where we are, this is our liferight here, right now, she recalls telling Andy. Whatever the outcome, well deal with it, and not just deal with itwell live it. Tears filled Andys sky-blue eyes, then he grinned and said, I love that.

    Almost four years later, in her sunlit dining room at home in Sydneys eastern suburbs, Vashti lifts her sleeve to display the three words scrolling in cursive script across her left inner arm. Im covered in little words of our journey together, the mother of two, an executive life and leadership coach, tells WHO. They remind me, This is a mark on your body that represents a part of your life that you need to remember you learnt from. The lessons are still unfolding for Vashti, 41, whose husband of 10 years was 39 when he died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Sept. 11, 2011, devastating his loved ones and legions of fans around the world.

    Im learning to be in a life without my husband, and how to create a life with the kids, says Vashti, mother of son Jesse, 9, and Indigo, 6. The most challenging thing about losing Andy was that he was my islandyou can go anywhere in your boat knowing which island youre coming back toso I do find myself sometimes drifting in the ocean going, Where is it?

    Since falling in love in London in March 1998, the couple were like the missing pieces of each other. Theres something about Andy and I being together; we brought just about the right amount of light and the right amount of shadow, so we balanced each other out really

    well, reflects London-born Vashti, a keen photographer and writershe blogs at maybemcqueen.comwhose chic terrace home brims with photos of her late husband.

    The humble, Welsh-raised engineering student

    who idolised Steve McQueen was like no-one Vashti had met before. There was something about his vulnerability and his cheekiness, and this person inside really wanting to get out, but he hadnt discovered himself yet, she says. When we first got together, we were sitting in the garden and he said, I dont know what it is about you, but I just want to be around you forever. I remember thinking I have never experienced somebody so gentle and kind and funny and soft.

    And while he was so very beautiful, externally, Andy was blind to his

    n the golden evening light of picturesque Ponsonby, Auckland, in September 2010, Andy and Vashti Whitfield sat holding hands across the table at their favourite restaurant. Their thoughts were full

    of tomorrow, when test results would reveal whether Andys non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which hed successfully fought since being

    I

    FROM

    LEFT: STARZ; CO

    URTESY O

    F VASH

    TI WH

    ITFIELD

    Whatever the outcome,

    well deal with it Vashti Whitfield

    BRAVE HEART

    Australian actor Jai Courtney (far right) grew close to Andy and his family after working with him on Spartacus. What I took away from [his death] was just to live

    the way he did and get clear about your objectives and make it all count, Courtney

    told The Sydney Morning Herald.

    Every time they see a butterfly, they go,

    Hi Dad! says Vashti of Jesse and Indigo (with their

    parents in 2008 before Andy became ill).

  • movie-star looks. In December 1998, lured by the sun and sea, the couple moved to Sydney, where Andy was a specialist in the faades of buildings. He was often seen cascading down the Opera House and all the high buildings, says Vashti, who wed Andy in a Tuscan feast celebration at Bondi bookshop Gertrude & Alice three years later. Hed often come home and say, Got another business card today, where some hot secretary had opened the window and given him her number!

    It wasnt long before a photographer stopped Andy to ask if he could take his photo. Snapped up by Chic Model Management, he

    moved on to TV commercials and acting classes, scoring his big break playing the leadan angelin 2007s action-fantasy film Gabriel. The following year came Spartacus.

    It was in January 2010 after a triumphant first season of the sexy and gory pay-TV show that Andy began to suffer severe backaches, though he at first put them down to his physically demanding role. But a scan showed otherwise. I got this call from him saying, I think Im in trouble, remembers Vashti, in a soft voice. The next day they

    diagnosed him with Stage 4 non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It was, Youve got three months to live without treatment.

    Andy coped well with the treat-ment and he and his young family made the hopeful move back to New Zealand to prepare to shoot the second season. To clear him for filming, Andy was retested. The day after getting their Be here now tattoos, the couple found out Andys cancer was backand more aggres-sive than ever. Yet his response was

    true to the courage and grace he displayed in life and onscreen as the noble gladiator. It was like being at sea and being told a storm is coming, says Vashti. We felt scared, but it was like, OK, what are we going to do with this epic storm? And thats where Andy said, Weve got to make a documentary.

    The partly crowd-funded feature Be Here Now, which follows Andys final year, is set for release early next year, thanks mainly to the efforts of director Lilibet Foster and producer Sam Maydew. The doco, says Vashti, is about giving support to people going through having their lives turned upside down through cancer, and inspiring them to find the beauty in those moments.

    As Andy himself did when, hours before his death in a Sydney hospice, he told his children to look for him in every butterfly, and as Vashti does, in her love for their kidsmy cubsher open-hearted posts on social media, and her passion for life. Most mornings, the feisty fitness

    junkie who surfs and rides motorcycles, runs through Sydneys Centennial Park, where a mighty Moreton Bay fig stands tall in memory of Andy: Even when the kids are 50, they can go up to the park and stand under that tree. But before then, theres a lot of time for living. Andys inspired people everywhere to come back to what it means to be present in your life, says Vashti, of the many fans who have sent her photos of their own Be here now tattoos. And thats an incredible legacy. By Karina Machado

    COU

    RTESY OF VA

    SHTI W

    HITFIELD

    (2)

    Im open to the journey and to the

    discoveries Andy Whitfield

    LOVING DAD

    Indigo, who was 3 when her father died, studies his photos,

    says Vashti. Jesse (right) now spends a lot of time being a boy with his mates and other dads,

    and is dealing with his loss in his time. Its about respect-

    ing where theyre at, says Vashti.

    I would love to be living in London again, but Im not ready to give up this

    city thats so fabulous for kids, says Vashti (at home

    in Sydneys east with Indigo and Jesse on Aug. 3).

    Im open to the journey and to the discoveries

    and to the adventures of

    all of this, says Andy (displaying

    his tattoo) in the Be Here

    Now trailer.