I expected bereavement to bring strong emotion. Loss, guilt, anger, despair, fear. But what I've realised is that the strongest of all is love. When I cry out in my pain to Louise, occasionally its to say 'Why did you do it?' or 'Why didn't you call me?', sometimes its to say 'I miss you', but mostly its simply to say, over and over again, 'I love you Louise'. Its this that I urgently want her to know now, more than anything.
I have fallen in love with Louise all over again. Of course I had never fallen out of love with her but inevitably over 4 1/2 years together the intensity of feeling becomes more settled, comfortable and secure than in the early days of passion and discovery. Now, in my reflection over what has been lost I can see more clearly than ever what it was about Louise that made her so attractive to me and that made us work so well as a couple; her wisdom, intelligence, humility, energy, compassion, beauty, enthusiastic love of life, nature and people, emotional intelligence and honesty, her impish sense of fun, generosity of spirit, open mindedness, desire for learning and understanding, her values of sufficiency, toleration and giving, her bravery in fighting her illness and, of course, her reciprocal love of me.
As a consequence my love for Louise has been redoubled. It has all the stomach churning warmth and intensity of our first months together but sharpened further by the knowledge of her deeper qualities that can only be gained through years of intimacy, and by the memories, connections and shared experiences of a life lived together. There is a clarity and purity to this love which I have never felt before, which sometimes takes me aback with its overwhelming force and its generosity. I would willingly sacrifice anything, including my own life and well being, if only I could ensure Louise's welfare and happiness. It is the thought of Louise's own suffering and loss, not mine, which causes me the greatest hurt.
I yearn to be allowed just 10 minutes back together with Louise again to tell her all this. She knew and was secure in the knowledge that she was much loved. I told her that I loved her every day, as she did me. But over time such declarations can take on a slightly formulaic quality, genuinely meant but with the impact slightly lost in the constant and predictable re-telling. Beyond the early days I rarely told her exactly how much she meant to me, and certainly never explained with a passion and an urgency what it would mean to me if she wasn't there any more. I suppose in the normal course of events few people do. (Maybe they should. Every couple will experience this loss at some point, even if not usually so early in their time together.) In any case, I didn't fully appreciate it myself until I was placed in that nightmarish reality. Perhaps if I'd had the insight to explain all this clearly it just might have given Louise sufficient strength and motivation to get through the darkest moment of all, though I know, deep down, that is unlikely. The depths of depression are beyond the reach of fine sentiments and rationality.
I am aware that there must be a risk of sanctifying Louise, of well intentioned but false memory in the emotion of the moment, romanticising what she was and what we had. But whereas many people talk of 'forgetting' or a fear of 'forgetting' the person they have lost, I think that I still have a very strong sense of the real Louise, one which is grounded in reality. I haven't lost sight of the difficult times, when she was struggling with her illness, but I know that they were an aberration and not remotely representative of the wonderful woman I knew so well. And if I was ever in any doubt I also have the evidence of the heartfelt tributes from Louise's legion of friends which so loudly and eloquently bears witness to her remarkable qualities.
I wish I could claim that the experience of this intense love is joyful, uplifting and consolatory. After all, we are accustomed to thinking of love as a rewarding and positive emotion. Maybe it will become so again in time, when some of the raw immediacy of the hurt fades and I can remember without also mourning. But for the moment, as I know with certainty that my love for Louise will in future be unrequited, it is simply a new and terrible form of pain and loss. What do we do with a heart full of love when it has nowhere to go?