The only thing Judith Stone wanted for Christmas was for her husband Ryan to be there with her and their two young children.
But the 38-year-old, who had been battling cancer since April, succumbed on Friday.
"A huge part of me is missing because he isn't here,'' Judith said yesterday.
"We were together for 13 years. I met him through friends in 1999 and it was love at first sight. I never thought I would meet someone so outgoing and energetic like Ryan was.
"I couldn't imagine life without him. It's so hard. He was my best friend and my soulmate.
"He was so romantic and would always send me flowers. He would call me lovey or Judy poo. I never thought I would ever lose my husband.''
Ryan was well known in motor-racing circles, was a key part of Ruapuna Speedway and was a three-time South Island TQ Midget car champion.
A funeral will be held tomorrow to farewell Mr Stone, who was a signwriter.
Ryan was expected to live for about nine months after being diagnosed with cancer in April. The family had thought he would make it past Christmas.
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But at 2am on Sunday, December 2, a seizure signalled the worst for Judith and their sons, Leon, 1, and Regan 5.
"I woke up and found Ryan in the middle of a seizure,'' Judith said.
"He was deteriorating quickly. His headaches got that bad that he couldn't lie down anymore. I knew it was really bad this time. I rung the ambulance and they rushed him to hospital.''
Ryan stayed in Christchurch Hospital for about a week before he was transferred to Nurse Maude Hospice.
"I stayed with him for a few nights,'' said Judith. "It was hard to juggle the boys. I knew this time the outcome was going to be different. I could feel he was ready to go.
"It got to the point where he was sedated the entire time because the headache pain was too much for him to bear . He would get really upset. The most frustrating thing was that I couldn't do anything to help him.
"I think deep down he knew that his time was nearly up. He made sure he said proper goodbyes to everyone. He gave everyone a hug and said 'I love you'. There was always someone with him at the hospice.
"He loved his two boys. One of the last things he told me was to look after the boys and that he loved me. I knew his time was up. He was too sick, we had to let him go.''
Every night since Ryan's death it's been unsettling for Regan and Leon who have often woken up crying in the middle of the night because they miss their dad.
A present for Ryan, picked out by Regan and Judith, is sitting under their Christmas tree.
"We decided to get him a remote-control Mini Cooper. He loved Minis,'' said Judith. "He loved hockey and cricket but speedway took over.
"This Christmas will be spent with Ryan's family. It will be hard without him there. He was so worried about leaving the boys.
"He was the best dad in the world. He touched everyone he met. He had a personality that everyone loved. The boys definitely take after him.''
Mrs Stone said it would be hard for the boys because they would grow up without a father.
"Christmas, birthdays and Leon's first day of school won't be the same without him. It's going to be hard but I will do my best. I have got lots of support from family so I am sure we will be okay.''
Graeme Sutton, who knew Ryan for 30 years, said he was instrumental in saving the TQ Midget class eight years ago.
"Numbers were declining in the class because a lot of people couldn't afford to race TQ Midgets because of the old engines,'' he said.
"They were expensive and hard to get parts for and the rules didn't allow racers to put new technology in those engines.
"Ryan broke down barriers to get the rules changed, which saved the class. There are now 30 participants in the TQ Midget class at Ruapuna Speedway. All that mattered to him was his family and racing his car.
"He was a champion on the track and a champion to the people. He had been racing since he was 16. The only thing he didn't win was a national title. He would eat, drink, live and sleep speedway. He would ring me up every week to talk about speedway.
"I take my hat off to him. His family should be proud of his achievements. He always had a smile even on a bad day. He meant a lot to me and I will miss him dearly.''