Thursday, 30 April 2015


After 4 1/2 years together and three months since her death, I thought that I knew everything there was to know about Louise. But this afternoon I discovered another aspect of her life which I had previously only briefly glimpsed.

I am sitting here perhaps at my very lowest point yet, emotionally and physically exhausted, my stomach still churning many hours after a beautiful yet traumatic Memorial Service held by Louise's Practice to celebrate her life as a doctor. It took me back nearly three months to the main Service of Remembrance, but then I was still wrapped in my protective bubble of shock and numbness, mechanically going through the motions barely knowing what was happening to me or around me. Back then I didn't fully appreciate that I was broken, or at least what it felt like to be broken. Now things are very different. The numbness has gone and the grim reality of daily life without Louise has set in. I know that I won't see her, hear her or touch her again, at least in this existence, and am beginning to understand what it is like to live within that void. I am also now exhausted by three months of mourning, a process infinitely more intense and all consuming that anything else I have ever experienced. I have no emotional or physical reserves of strength or energy left to call upon.

Today's Service was therefore very much harder to cope with. To sit through a Memorial Service for the person you love so much is simultaneously an excruciating, surreal and uplifting experience which strips bare your personal life and emotions and exposes them to the gaze of countless others. To self consciously enter a church filled with dozens upon dozens of people knowing that all eyes are upon you, that you are the object of the collective sympathy of so many, most of whom you don't know, or know only barely, is only the beginning of the challenge. You then have to sit and stare at a big screen which bewilderingly declares that this is the Memorial Service of your beloved wife and displays a photo of her at her most beautiful, before listening to speaker after speaker paying tribute to her, and then to watch slide shows of your own personal photos of her, precious memories of holidays and family events, playing to a soundtrack of music of deep personal resonance and meaning. And then, after fighting so hard to maintain your composure, to avoid eye contact with anybody lest everything falls apart, comes the hardest test of all; the moment when you have to step forward and deliver your own eulogy, desperate to be coherent and to do your wife proud, but conscious that every word is a potential trip hazard, that a full scale and very public meltdown into floods of tears is possible at any moment. 

But the reward for enduring this agony was to gain an insight into the one aspect of Louise's life which I couldn't normally experience alongside her. Always mindful of the need for patient confidentiality Louise told me relatively little about the detail of her working day but she did frequently voice her frustrations at her own perceived professional limitations and we frequently tried to work through this self doubt together. I knew that Louise must be a better doctor than she gave herself credit for, and the occasional comment from patients which filtered through to me hinted at her very special gifts but, being neither her colleague nor her patient, I could hardly provide an objective assessment. 

It was therefore a privilege today to meet Louise's patients and colleagues and to understand that Louise was not just a good doctor but a truly outstanding one. I learnt how highly regarded she was within the Practice and the wider medical community and how loved she was by her patients for the care and commitment she displayed towards them. I was overwhelmed reading the book of condolences in which patient after patient describes with enormous gratitude the lengths Louise went to in order to support them and the difference that she was able to make to their lives. It was humbling to know that my wife, the person who I saw close up in all her daily vulnerability and humanity, was held in such remarkable affection and had been able to change so many peoples lives for the better, and to do so in her own quiet and unassuming way.

And yet even here amongst the pride there was profound sadness. For every tribute, every acknowledgement of Louise's extraordinary gifts and personality, there was another painfully sharp  reminder of what has been lost, not only by her patients but also by me. I have tried to console myself with the thought that one day in the distant future I may be ready to love again, to try and recreate with somebody else something of what I had with Louise. But days like today only serve to emphasise yet again what I already knew; that Louise was a person of such outstanding character, so full of the most extraordinary energy, love, commitment, intelligence, wisdom, fun and goodness that it is quite impossible to ever hope to meet anybody of her like again. 

I have been lucky enough to have the very best and unlucky enough to have lost it. The rest of my life can therefore now be nothing more than a search for second best.


  1. She was an amazing lady. I first met Louise at Sheffield medical school. She was heavily involved with CMF (Christian Medical Fellowship). She did a lot of work with international students and helped them in so many ways. I remember trying to fit into British life and she was so understanding and helpful.

    You can imagine my sadness and grief that I looked her up on the internet after all these years trying to make contact with her and now she is gone. How sad and what's amazing is I tried to make contact with her few years ago and I had no luck and I gave up. Today I thought I look her up again just to say Hi and now I read this.

    Please accept my condolences and I hope you find peace.

    God bless you,

  2. Hi AG. I am so sorry that you had to find out in this way. You are quite right. Louise was truly amazing. I didn't know anything about her work with CMF. She never mentioned it. She always wore her achievements and goodness very lightly. Thank you very much for your kind words and filling in another little blank in Louise's life for me. I will say a little more in response to your comment on the more recent post.