A brave RAF sergeant left his wife a touching gift when he took his last breath at the same time she walked down the aisle six years ago after a brave battle with brain cancer.
Sgt Steven Vout, 43, from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, died at 3.33pm on May 16.
It was the exact moment that his wife, Rita Gal Vout, had walked down the aisle six years earlier, she said.
Rita took comfort that the moment of her husband’s passing at St Oswald’s Hospice, in Gosforth, was his last romantic gift to her.
She said: “I held his hand from 3pm and talked to him about promises I would keep.
“At 3.15, the nurses came to change his syringe drivers and they said he was ok.
“I looked at the clock and I [said] to him ‘darling, it is getting close to the time, it’s 10 more minutes [until] I walked down the aisle’. I reassured him how much I loved him and how much he meant to me.
“I told him I will be an old crazy cat lady and how I have adopted three cats already. Then I told him how much I loved him again and I reassured him I would be ok. And then the time came: 3.30pm.
“He had one big breath, at 3.31pm another one. At 3.33pm, the exact time, six years before, I walked down the aisle, he took his last breath and his colour changed. So I knew it was final.
“With his last breath he gave me his last reassurance to show the immense love he had for me, he had held on for this significant day and time as he promised. It was his last promise and he kept it.”
Steven, was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma in October 2019.
He had joined the Royal Air Force in 2001 and completed a number of tours including in Iraq.
He returned to his Northumberland home and to RAF Boulmer in 2020, following his diagnosis.
Rita said that her husband had survived for much longer than doctors had predicted he would, thanks to his “strength, spirituality, love of life and love of his family”.
She said Steven was “a beam of light”.
After Steven’s diagnosis, the couple were still able to make “precious memories” in his final months, including meals with family, walks on the Northumberland coast, and completing the DIY projects he loved.
Rita said: “He lit up the room with his welcoming smile, booming voice, infectious personality and sense of humour. You would instantly warm to him and he would quickly accept you as part of his wider family.
“A very caring, strong and loyal family man, he loved T-shirts and had a fabulous range. Steven would go out of his way to try to help anyone, even through his cancer-fighting days. He always said, ‘Behind every dark cloud the sun always shines’.
“His extreme positivity was infectious, even on the darkest of days.”
She added: “His love shines through my everyday life, before and after his death.”
Steven will also be greatly missed by his family, including parents Alison and Ken Vout, who recalled crying with pride at the passing out ceremony at RAF Halton as he joined the airforce, and how happy his career made him.
They said that in Rita he had found “the love of his life” and that they had never had to worry about him being alone since the pair met.
They said: “Steven has been a number one son and we love him forever and [his loss] has left an enormous hole in our hearts.”
Sharing a tribute on behalf of herself, her husband Kevin, and Steven’s nieces and nephews, sister Melissa Barnard recalled how her brother had been “caring” and “creative” ever since he was young, and remembered the “adventures” they would go on as children.
She added: “Steven had a caring and gentle heart who always thinks of others, mixed with a wicked sense of humour that made his ‘Dad jokes’ legendary, even during the times he was challenged the most by his illness.
“He never let anything stand in his way of getting what he wanted in life, he was focussed and constantly determined – no more so than in holding on to life for his wedding anniversary.
“Steven wanted people to realise that we live every day despite any challenges and that every day is beautiful. He loved to enjoy a drink or two with friends or family and we have lots of fun memories dancing singing and playing pool, which he was great at.
“Overall, myself and family will never stop missing him and he will be in our hearts forever.”
Steven’s RAF colleagues are also devastated by his death. Steven and Rita had always been “valued members of the Royal Air Force family”.
Group Captain David Keighley, station commander at RAF Boulmer, said: “I am deeply saddened by the news of Sergeant Vout’s passing after many months of illness.
“His courageous battle against cancer has given hope and inspiration to countless others across the country.
“The thoughts of all of us here at RAF Boulmer, and across the wider RAF, are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”
Rita hopes that Steven’s story will still continue to inspire people.
During his illness, Steven had been determined to share his message of strength and positivity to others living with cancer.
She said: “Steven’s strength, grace and dignity shone through all his cancer battling journey. He would want you to know everything is possible, stay strong, stay true to yourself and never give up.”
Steven’s loved ones are raising money for St Oswald’s Hospice in his memory, and donations can be made here.
His funeral will be held at St Bartholomew’s Church, Newbiggin by the Sea, on Friday, June 4 at 1.30pm followed by a cremation at Blyth Crematorium at 2.30pm.
Guests at the service are limited due to Covid-19 restrictions, but people are invited to line the route from his home to the church, ahead of the ceremony to pay their respects.