Before Rosie passed away, and in one of the letters she left, I (Elliot, her husband) was asked to keep writing her blog. She’d decided that a charity would be a fitting way to remember her and this is the obvious place to talk about it. Hopefully there’ll be more about that in the coming weeks. In the meantime I felt a need to talk about Rosie.
I want to start with an apology. My writing will never be as eloquent or as inspiring as Rosie’s (yes there’s that word which she so hated; but she inspired me along with hundreds, if not thousands of others). But I hope to emulate her ability to impart knowledge which will be of comfort and interest to those of you reading it. I also hope to continue to write in Rosie’s spirit – openly, honestly, pulling no punches.
For the last two weeks of Rosie’s life I had the privilege of being by her side for much of the time; spending every waking and sleeping hour with her for those final ten days. They were at once some of the most spectacularly beautiful and most gut wrenchingly upsetting moments I ever spent with Rosie. Beautiful because the woman I fell in love with was still there; sharp as a pin, bossing me about (in the most adoring way – correcting my poor use of grammar as I typed up her final blog) and speaking in a foreign language to amuse a Spanish nurse. Upsetting, well it’s obvious why. Anyone who sees a loved one descending towards death, no matter at what stage of life, is going to be moved. My loss was no greater and no less than anyone else’s but it was mine. And it hurts.
Looking back over the recent past the word I would use to describe our loss is shock. It was a shock how quickly Rosie’s health deteriorated. It was a shock that none of us, not even Rosie, saw this coming. It was a shock that so little could be done in the final days. And it continues to shock me that she is no longer here. How is that possible? For her parents the shock is unimaginably appalling. Imagine losing the baby that you brought into this world; nurtured, cared for, let free on the world and then had to bury. All in just 38 years. And for a brother, for Laurence to have lost his “little, big sister”, well words fail me. I can only imagine what’s going through Natalie and Joseph’s heads. Surely their little minds can’t even begin to comprehend what has happened. How could they? I can’t.
I have spoken about losing my friend. My best friend. The only person in the world who knew my every thought. The only person in the world who cared to know my every thought. The only person with whom I would dare to share my every thought. I’ve lost that. My dreams are vivid with her presence. When I awake I shake myself to remind me what’s happened. It’s like losing her all over, again and again. I’m assured by many who have gone through this themselves that time is a great healer, and having lost my father aged 15 I can believe that. But right now the pain is unimaginable.
Each message I receive from Rosie’s friends, colleagues, clients and admirers is a double-edged sword. The kind words of warmth and support do just that. They support. For those who recount their personal memories of Rosie it makes me proud all over again to have known her. But the flip side is the reminder of what the world has lost, what the family have lost, what I have lost. I am not a self-pitying person. I have no time to be. I have two adorable children to look after. But in the moments of solitude I feel intensely sad. The senseless end to a brilliant life, a brilliant mind and a brilliant career. The gaping hole that has been left behind.
Minds far greater than mine, both religious and secular have grappled with the question of premature death and whether there is a purpose. Right now I’m not looking for an answer. I just want the pain to go away. I want to remember Rosie without the sensation of a knife twisting in my heart. Is that too much to ask?
The emotional rollercoaster, which we’ve all been on over the last few weeks is compounded by the process surrounding the registration and administration of a death in British society today. Rosie and I didn’t have a very complicated life together. We had utility bills, credit cards, bank accounts, benefits from the government for our deaf son and a private pension. That’s about it. But boy is it time-consuming to sort out the tangle left behind. Probate. A word that I’m sure Rosie would have taken in her legal stride. Without Laurence and his wife I think I’d be drowning now. Bright lawyers dealing with an insensitive system which is far too complex for one with as meagre a mind as mine.
But enough of the unimportant things. What of Rosie? In answer to one of hundreds of condolence letters I felt compelled to explain that the outpouring of love for Rosie has in a way buoyed me. Why? Well because it’s made me realise that Rosie was seen by the rest of the world as I see her. The fantastic woman who could frankly do anything she turned her attention to, and utterly brilliantly. I saw that every day and adored her for it. Now the world sees that too.
Rosie supported me through some really tough times. We were a team – ‘Team Choueka-Choueka’. She was selfless beyond anything. She was supportive, loving, caring and intellectually without peer. I fell in love with her massive brain and her magnetic personality. I am completely unable to contemplate a life without her and simply can’t accept that the time has come when she’s not here. I realise that no one knows when their time is up but just 38 years of a vivacious life is just too, too short for this giant of humankind. I feel sad; I feel empty. I miss Rosie.
In the final moments of her life I was able to carry out one immensely important act. I carried from our daughter, who I had just spoken to, a hug and kiss for her mummy. On returning to her room I dutifully passed on the hug and gave Rosie a kiss on her lips. For the first time in hours she kissed me back. She didn’t open her eyes but she responded to my touch. And then moments later she was gone. I will always remember that. And when Natalie reads this she will know that she was with her mummy as she slipped from this world. Goodbye my darling.