Thursday, 14 May 2015

Learning from Louise

As we go through life we all inevitably find ourselves marked by our experiences. We collect and carry our scars, whether they be of disappointment, disillusionment, failure, betrayal, trauma or tragedy. And these experiences in turn help to make us the person that we are, for better or worse.

If I am going to bring any kind of sense to what Louise did I have to try and find and hold on to positives that have emerged from it. Of course nothing can provide adequate compensation or anything remotely like it. But I must be able to see some good come from her actions, however slight the consolation may be. I must believe that even the darkest act can in some way bring light and hope. Then at least there is some purpose and benefit. Louise will not have died completely in vain.

The most immediate and obvious positive is the way in which Louise's death has brought me closer to her family and friends.  Louise's Mother, brother and sister, and our nephews and nieces, were for 3 1/2 years my family by marriage. Relationships were always good but  they have been strengthened further in adversity and they will now always remain family. The support I have received from some of Louise's friends has also created lifetime bonds.

But there is something more, something deeper. Louise may have been six years younger than me but she taught me much. My life and my interests became infinitely richer, more textured and varied thanks to her example, enthusiasm and encouragement. I began to look beyond the relatively narrow confines of football, photography, politics and modern history.  As I joined with Louise in her interests, reluctantly at first but with increasing enthusiasm, I found myself eagerly perusing theatrical listings and reviews, attending classical concerts, downloading choral music, enjoying holidays in VW camper vans (I drew the line at camping after a very chilly, soggy and muddy weekend in a tipi) and even appreciating long country walks. 

All of this was new to me and all of it will survive Louise's passing. Curiously in fact, since her death I seem almost to have mysteriously acquired Louise's own interests and way of relating to the world. Its as if through some strange force I am experiencing life for her by proxy. I find myself realising with sudden clarity exactly what it was that made Louise love nature so much. For the first time in my life I am drawn to stop and admire flowers, watch birds and stroke the bark of trees, just as Louise would. And Louise will be both amused and impressed that the man who used to think a visit to the corner shop for a paper constituted a long walk has been seriously considering going on an organised walking holiday.

Of even more significance, however, Louise possessed a generosity, wisdom, grace and understanding of people way beyond mine. I have learnt so much from her about how to treat people, how to think beyond the exterior and how to always look for the beautiful - in people, in nature and in life generally. I therefore cannot afford to allow the scars from her death to diminish me as a person. The best tribute that I can pay to Louise, my best motivation for recovery and the only appropriate way to bring some meaning and purpose to what has happened, is for me to use this experience and my learning from Louise to become a better person and help the world in some small way become a better place.

We used to sometimes say to each other  'I am yours, you are mine and we are one'. I'm conscious that sounds rather twee out of context but if it is to have any meaning then surely it is in these circumstances. By taking Louise's values and principles as my own, upholding and honouring them, then Louise can in some way continue to live, to make the difference to peoples lives that she so much wanted, through me.

The charity which I am establishing in Louise's memory to help medical practitioners at risk of suicide, and their families, is one practical manifestation of the desire to create a positive legacy. But I am determined to effect more deep rooted personal change, to become a better person through daily observance of Louise's values in all aspects of my life. This will not necessarily be easy to do. Those values are good ones and close to my own but I will still have to work hard to live up to them; not to judge others, not to allow myself to feel or display anger or strong negative emotions (I never once heard Louise use the word 'hate'),  to always see the positive in everybody and every situation, to always give time to listen and, perhaps most crucially, once a wrong has been identified to act rather than merely talk about it. In every situation I will have to stop and ask myself what Louise would have done. This is bound to provide me with the right course of action and a reliable moral compass.

If I can do all this then I will be able to draw some comfort from the knowledge that Louise's death was not entirely without purpose and that indirectly she will be able to continue to exert a positive influence on the world. I also very much hope that it might make her proud of me.

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