A dad's doodle diary of heartache and hope: former Disney animator.

Every night, without fail, children's TV animation director Gary Andrews captures a poignant moment from family life with exquisite sketches in his 'Doodle Diary'.

Hand-drawn in pen, they feature charming cartoon caricatures of himself, his wife Joy and his two young children, Lily, ten, and seven-year-old Ben.

When Gary first started his Doodle Diaries three years ago on his 54th birthday, he was a happily married family man whose drawings were infused with humour and delight at his good fortune.Today, they tell a very different story. For the past six months, they've charted his harrowing journey as a widowed, single dad struggling to fill the gap left by his wife's sudden death.

Last October, while Gary, 57, was in Canada on a week-long work trip Joy, 41, fell ill with what they both thoughts was just flu. Rushed to the hospital, four days after waving Gary off at Heathrow Airport, she died from multi-organ failure caused by the silent killer sepsis.Gary was mid-air on an emergency early flight home and arrived back in Britain only to be told: 'We've lost her.'

A bacterial infection had overwhelmed her body, triggering a massive inflammatory response.Shell-shocked and utterly bereft, that night as his distraught children slept upstairs he picked up his notebook and pen and poured his emotions onto the page.Eyes blurring, he drew a heart broken in two, from which one teardrop falls.'I was crying so hard it was difficult to focus on the page.

I was drawing through tears,' says Gary, voice catching as he flicks through the diaries in front of him on the kitchen table

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.'Gary has faithfully recorded every single day since in his Doodle Diary good, bad, funny, angry or sad which he now hopes to publish to raise money for the Sepsis Trust, to raise awareness of the disease.

If caught early enough, sepsis can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but its symptoms including fever, sickness, blotchy skin and dizziness are often mistaken for other illnesses and not recognised until too late.

Gary wants it to be one of the first things doctors consider, rather than an afterthought when everything else has been dismissed. Flicking through the pages of his diary, he'd hate another family to go through what they have.Gary shows me the next sketch, the day after Joy's death, which shows him, Lily and Ben clinging to each other, tears pouring from their eyes, in front of the TV watching Strictly.
had gone.'

'Strictly was Joy and Lily's favourite programme and I'd sit in the corner, reading a book or making sarcastic comments while Ben half-watched it,' says Gary, who during his long career in animation has worked for Disney and on Beatrix Potter films.'So on that first Saturday without Joy, I took Mummy's place on the sofa she always had the best seat and we cuddled up and watched it together, because that's what Joy would have wanted us to do.'Lily and Ben had just lost the most central person in their life, and I needed to step up to take her place and make sure that the life went on as normally as possible for them so they didn't feel they'd lost everything.'

As an adult, you look back with nostalgia and grieve for the past and what you've lost, but children live in the here and now. They feel the pain, cry and then ask: 'What's for tea?''Life had to carry on. So, yes, there were tears of sadness but also acceptance.

One book was closing and another chapter was opening with just the three of us, instead of four.'While many of the cartoons are achingly sad, showing Gary arms aloft looking terrified 'riding the rollercoaster of grief', others are heart-warming, uplifting, funny as he navigates a new world of play dates, shopping, cooking and Girl Guides.

One shows Gary asking Ben if he misses Mummy on Mothering Sunday as the family enjoys a pub lunch and he replies: 'We can call it Daddering Sunday'.Joy also still features in the Doodles, as a guiding presence, standing behind Gary as he chooses Christmas presents for their children for the first time alone or smiling in the background with Santa Claus when Lily and Ben open them.The Diaries are my therapy. After a bad day, it's like letting off a little bit of steam, opening a pressure valve, and it lets my friends know how I'm doing,' says Gary, who also posts the cartoons on Twitter.

'There are funny things too. I like the funny, but sometimes there are days when nothing is funny at all and I need to express that as well.'I still, think about Joy all day and every day. The grief is always there in the background. I have days when I want to howl with grief, punch the sofa and scream: 'Why?' Then I put those feelings away because I owe it to the children and to Joy to make sure their lives remain happy and normal.'Joy was the most amazing mother, so when I feel overwhelmed, I just ask myself:

'What would Joy do?' I keep telling the kids: 'Let me know if I'm not doing it right.'If the bright, happy, warm atmosphere in the Andrews' home in Horley, Surrey is anything to go by then Gary is doing everything right and Joy would be very proud of him.Lily and Ben are delightful, cheerful children, who clearly adore their dad and feel comfortable talking about their mum, whose face smiles from countless photographs on the wall.

In the beginning, Gary may have been all at sea, but now he has a spreadsheet of all the children's many after-school clubs and activities. The conservatory doubles up as an arts and crafts room and Ben's latest school project, an impressive papier-mache volcano, sits on the table.Gary even did Lily's hair and make-up when she dressed up as the White Witch from The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe for her school's World Book Day, a role Mummy a talented actress had played on the stage the year before.

With a work studio in the garden, Gary is always there for the children and if he has to go to London for meetings he can count on a wide support network of family, friends and other parents to help out.He's even brushed up on his culinary skills his wife was a fabulous cook and baker and so far the children haven't complained once about his sometimes burnt offerings.They've come a long way in six months, but Gary would give anything to have Joy back.Both were members of an amateur theatre company where they first met, and Gary felt the luckiest man in the world when friendship deepened into love after Joy graduated from York University, where she studied TV, film and theatre.

'She was young and beautiful and I was short, podgy and 15 years older, but something clicked between us and we were as in love with each other on the last day as we were the first,' says Gary, who married Joy in 2004.'We packed more into 19 years than most people pack into a lifetime and I was looking forward to the next 19 years together.'I never thought for a second that at my age I'd be starting over as a widowed single dad. If anything, I used to worry I'd go before Joy and leave her alone.'She was the healthiest person I knew. She'd never had a day's serious illness. She did yoga. When she gave birth to Lily she had just gas and air, and with Ben no pain relief at all. She was so strong.

'The the weekend before Gary flew to Vancouver, the family had spent a glorious couple of days at a festival in Glastonbury, listening to folk music and story-telling. On Monday, they stopped off at Cheddar Gorge for a walk, en route to Heathrow where they had the last sandwich together before Gary's flight.The last time he saw Joy alive, she looked radiant as he turned round to see them waving goodbye. He waved back, with the words: 'Bye, See you in a week.We hated being apart, and whenever I went abroad for work, Joy always seemed to come down with a cold or a snuffle,' says Gary. 'When we spoke on FaceTime on Tuesday, she told me: 'Oh, I've got the flu. I feel rubbish.' The next day, she was still feeling ill and was resting on the sofa, watching TV while the kids were at her mother's to give her a break.

'She looked a bit tired, but not seriously ill. The last thing I said to her was: 'Look after yourself, I love you.' The next day, Thursday, I texted her: 'How's it going? Want to chat?' She texted back: 'Not really, try me later.' 'By the afternoon, Joy's condition had gone downhill. Her sister Marie, who'd just arrived from her home in France to visit for a birthday, was so alarmed she called for an ambulance.'Marie phoned me and said: 'Joy's very poorly, she's been taken to the hospital, can you get an earlier flight home?' Then I got another call, saying: 'Have you got that flight because it's not looking good.'Gary boarded the 10pm flight, out of his mind with worry, replaying different scenarios in his head.

It was the one night, in three years, that he did not draw in his doodle diary.'I knew she was in the hospital, I knew she was very poorly, but I didn't know what that meant. Did it mean she wouldn't be home for two weeks? I pondered every single, possible outcome, preparing myself for the worst.'He feared the worst the minute he saw Joy's mother and brother waiting for him in the arrivals hall. He is grateful they waited until they were inside the car before telling him:'We've lost her.'Shell-shocked, he discovered that while he was in the air Joy had been rushed into theatre for an emergency operation to find out what was wrong, but hadn't survived the procedure.'I'm told that before the operation Joy was conscious and was very positive and brave,' says Gary, tears misting his eyes.'Marie remembers the crash team rushing in and thinking: 'Oh God.' It was the stuff of nightmares.

It was awful for them. Joy died at 3.15am. I didn't land until Friday lunchtime.''I was completely devastated. I couldn't take it in. It felt completely surreal. I couldn't believe I'd never see Joy alive again. My heart broke for our children, who still had no idea their Mummy was dead,' he says.'Telling them is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I took them into the garden and hugged them. I will never forget their almost animal sounds of grief when they realised Mummy wasn't coming home.'For many nights Lily and Ben insisted on sleeping in Mummy and Daddy's bed, often they'd come downstairs in tears worried that Gary might die too but with time those fears have started to recede. They now mostly sleep in their own beds.

They all still miss Joy desperately, but Gary tries to fill their days with fun, friends, family, laughter and activities while treasuring memories of Mum. Despite his grief, Gary blames no one for Joy's death. It was just bad luck, he says, but he hopes his Doodle Diaries will raise awareness of sepsis to prevent further deaths. If diagnosed early enough, sepsis which arises when a body's response to infection causes injury to its own tissues can be treated with antibiotics.' From the minute Joy was admitted to the 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.' A couple of weeks before her death Joy had a urinary tract infection, which she seemed to shrug off without antibiotics. When doctors operated, they found a twisted Fallopian tube and that one of her ovaries had died, but Gary says they cannot say if this caused the 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.' And tonight, he will pick up a pen and his Doodle Diary, and make his own special memory of whatever happened today.