In his book, "Mum's List: A Mother's Life Lessons to the Husband And Sons She Left Behind," St. John Greene tells the story of his romance with his wife, Kate; their struggle to help their son, Reef, overcome a very rare form of cancer; and -- most heartbreakingly -- the loss of Kate herself to breast cancer in 2010. The "list" of the book's title is a set of suggestions, facts and practical instructions for raising the couple's two young sons (e.g. "Please teach [the boys] to be on time") recorded by Kate before she died. Here, St. John shares the lessons he's learned about family and fatherhood since losing Kate.

*****

Go with your gut instincts on everything.
As a couple, we felt there was something wrong with our son before the doctors picked up on it. We went to our local doctor probably 20 times before they actually referred Reef to a specialist to find out what was wrong.

Looking after children is a massive job, and everybody does it in a different way.
I don't think there's a right way and a wrong way. For single parents, the job becomes harder. You’ve got nobody to bounce ideas off of before you implement certain rules; you have to work harder on making sure that everything's balanced. As a single parent, you need to use your friends and your family to help you make the big decisions in the house. I think if you do that, you'll do well. It's good to talk. Chat with the children in the family, too, because sometimes getting their opinion can make a massive difference.

Make sure you communicate.
Blokes are renowned for not being very good communicators, and not showing their feelings, but sometimes you need to. Tell the family what's going on.

When Kate died, I got one amazing piece of advice from the school. They told me to tell the boys that their mum had died -- not that she was asleep or floating on a cloud or something, because that might make the boys afraid to go to sleep at night, or fly in airplanes. They told me to be honest, but to be simple, explain things in a child's way -- not overcomplicate things.

Celebrate the good things and good times, and do it on important dates.
Someone who had obviously been bereaved before came out of the woodwork when I was feeling pretty low, and told us this. So rather than getting upset near the date when Kate died, we actually go out and celebrate and do something really cool on that day. Just so that it isn’t horrible, and we aren’t sitting at home dwelling on bad times. The lesson is to be positive.

Be calculated in your risk-taking.
I was always the daredevil of the family -- even when I was a little boy. I'd be the first one up running along the top of a wall, or climbing to the top of a tree. I still do that now, at the ripe old age of 46, but it's all more calculated. I make sure I look after myself, because the boys need their parents, and since the loss of Kate, the odds for me have become a little bit different. I need to make sure that I'm taking care of myself -- but I still like doing the risky stuff. Living on the edge, as they say.

Surprise yourself every day.
The boys are quite demanding; they're 7 and 6, so you can imagine them clamoring for attention all the time. To hold down a job and, at the same time, make sure you’re mum, you're dad, you're disciplinarian –- you’re the one who comes and sorts out the problems; you're the one who gives the cuddles and the love, and all the rest of it... It's a big task for one person to do. It's a big task for a couple to do. Yes, I was a bit worried, but I feel I've done a reasonably good job. Writing a book was something that I never thought I'd ever do. I'm dyslexic, so writing this story was a massive journey for me to undertake. I think my English teacher would probably have a coronary knowing I'd done it.

I didn't want to let Kate down, so I probably worked way harder than I should have done, initially. But it's paid dividends now. The boys are really well settled; they're quite well grounded, and they're very polite. Those are the values that we've instilled in them. I hope they'll carry on like this.

Some people have sent letters saying the book has helped them through crises they themselves are dealing with. The response online -- especially from people who are writing their own lists -- is fantastic. That's something I would really like to see: Everybody writing their own bucket lists, or lists of things they would like to achieve in their lifetimes. We keep telling people: Get out there and live it, because you can work all your life and not have done something and retire and die the next day. Because life is so short, and it's not a rehearsal.

As told to Emma Mustich

"Mum's List: A Mother's Life Lessons to the Husband And Sons She Left Behind," is published by Dutton. The pictures below, with St. John's captions, appear in the book.

Loading Slideshow...
  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Kate at seventeen. The girl with the sun in her hair.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Kate with Barnaby the teddy just before I came on the scene.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Kate's eighteenth birthday party -- Kate in the middle, with that famous twinkle in her eye, and me standing behind her.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Gorgeous Kate, golden brown in Majorca.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Teenage sweethearts, on one of our first holidays together.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>The obligatory holiday shots. Here we are testing our strength in Cyprus.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Kate got the most out of life wherever she went. Here she is in Egypt on her two hundredth dive.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Skiing in Switzerland in 1995, where I proposed to Kate.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Me in a rented Porsche in the days before kids, when I drove like a maniac.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene></br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Covered in confetti, outside Clifton College Chapel, the grinning groom and blushing bride.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>On our honeymoon, arriving at the famous pontoon in the Maldives for the best holiday so far.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Fighting for his life -- tiny Finn born two months premature.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>A whole lot of fun -- the boys together.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>The day I worried I'd never see -- Finn and Reef's first day at school together. What a morning.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Reef's Make-A-Wish trip to Walt Disney World in Florida.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Kate, halfway through her treatment, and the boys with the Tree of Life behind them. We had hoped that this would bring us good luck.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Kate's last summer with us was full of fun. Here she is leading the boys on a pony ride in Mendips.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>I still have every love letter Kate wrote me, allowing me to travel back in time to when we first met.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>Our first Christmas without Kate was painful beyond words. The whole family spent it in Egypt, and it felt incredible to be able to cross one of her wishes off the list.</br> <br>Credit: Courtesy of St. John Greene</br>

  • "Mum's List"

    <br>From Mum's List: "Celebrate birthdays big time."</br> <br>Photo © Northcliffemedia</br>