A Lancaster mum-of-two living with Motor Neurone Disease has passed away peacefully at home.
Nayeli Cookson died on Saturday surrounded by family, including her mum and sister from Mexico. She was 41 years old.
Her husband Guy has paid tribute to his wife, speaking of her “beautiful, mischievous smile” as well as the “spirit, grace and humour” she had following her MND diagnosis.
The couple have two sons, Oscar, 10, and seven-year-old Mateo.
Guy, 41, a partner at Hotfoot Design, said: “Oscar, Mateo and I will miss Nayeli more than we can ever describe. Our hearts are broken, but full of love.”
Nayeli, who was originally from Mexico, began to feel unwell in 2012 after a fall and the family originally believed this was due to a knee injury from previous football matches she had played in.
Before her illness Nayeli could be seen running up mountains with her football team, chatting happily to other mums at the school gates and taking her eldest son shopping.
But balance problems soon came and after two years of therapy the family received the devastating diagnosis shortly after the birth of Mateo.
A care team was shortly appointed to help Nayeli with personal care, and Nayeli and Guy, who were married for 14 years, prioritised family moments, taking trips out and holidaying in Iceland.
Guy said this week: “I met Nayeli when I was 17 and fell in love with her pretty much immediately. It was impossible not to.
“After her family returned to Mexico we kept in touch and I visited Nayeli and her wonderful family during my gap year.
“Then, after a few years apart, we met up once again and decided to spend our lives together. It just felt like it was meant to be.
“I’m so incredibly grateful for the time we had together and all of our many adventures.
“I can’t quite believe I won’t see her beautiful, mischievous smile again, hear her sing and play guitar, watch her teach the boys football skills – she was so much better than me – or plan another adventure together.
“After Nayeli was diagnosed with MND our lives changed beyond recognition, but her spirit, grace and humour kept us all afloat.
“She taught us how to live even when faced with the worst possible outcome.
“Oscar, Mateo and I will miss Nayeli more than we can ever describe. Our hearts are broken, but full of love.
“I want to thank our incredible family and amazing friends – you supported us in a million and one ways over the last few years. You never let things get too dark.
“I also owe an immense debt of gratitude to Sharon Jackson and everyone at Neuro DropIn, to Kelly Stepaniuk and Brett Butler and everyone else that helped adapt our house so Nayeli could be with us at home until the end, and to ‘Team Nayeli’ – the carers, doctors and other healthcare professionals that helped my family day in and day out to survive.
“There is a light that never goes out. Rest in peace my love.”
The Guardian reported last year how Nayeli’s deteriorating condition meant that she needed her home adapting.
A JustGiving page was set up to help Nayeli stay at her home with her family, and members of the community, local businesses and people from far and wide including the Mexican Embassy raised more than £20,000 to convert the family’s Lancaster home to enable Nayeli to use her electric wheelchair indoors.
As well as family and friends, the family also had support from the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Neuro DropIn Centre, based in Lancaster.
Sharon Jackson, founder of the Neuro DropIn, heard the devastating news about Nayeli passing away during the charity’s Neurobury event on Saturday.
She later paid tribute on Facebook, saying: “Neuro DropIn sends our deepest love and support to the family of our beautiful dear friend, gracious and determined warrior of love and hope, Nayeli Cookson.
“Nayeli was my friend for just four years, we met because of Neuro DropIn and I hope that her memories of us will remain as positive, loving and uplifting as my memories of her.
“Sadly Nayeli knew she was too poorly to be at Neurobury this year and we were all there when news of her passing reached us.
“It was a difficult moment to announce that we had lost her but I chose to announce it and make her part of everything so we interrupted the band, sent our love to her and her family, lit sparklers and then a miracle of nature as a beautiful bright sun broke through the cloud and shone its silver light on us, and then the band played I’m a Believer, and we smiled and sang and danced just as she would have wanted.
“Thank you dear dear friend, Nayeli, we will love, miss and remember you always at Neuro DropIn and I will treasure forever the space you allowed me in your life.”
Nayeli’s funeral will be held at St Bernadette’s Church in Lancaster at 11am on June 12.
Rather than flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Neuro DropIn at https://neurodropin.org.uk/donations/