23 Jan 2024






There were no patients in the high-dependency unit that afternoon: it was empty except for Douglas’s consultant, the ward sister, and me. I remember the early darkness of winter beyond the windows, and the lights of the car park below. I had been asked to attend this meeting, and I knew what they were going to tell me. It was not the beginning of the end: this journey had already taken us beyond that. What lay before us was death.

“You will have to make decisions you never thought you could make,” the consultant said gently. “And you will have to endure things you will think you can never endure. You have to ride the storm, for Douglas.”

And as there was nothing else they could do for him there, and it was a choice between the hospice and our house, I brought him home to die. And seven weeks later, on the night of January 23rd, 2017, I gave him back to the God who had given him to me to love for more than thirty years.

And I was alone.

I rode that storm, and many other storms, in the blackest nights of the spirit that can be imagined. Grief was a tsunami, receded, recurred, could not be predicted. In the words of the psalm and the seafarers’ hymn, “the proud waters had well nigh gone over our soul.”

I still ride the storm. Sometimes, now, the storm is betrayal: the friend who fails me and diminishes me, again and again, and who has such terrible power to wound me. Sometimes it’s officialdom in all its incompetence. Sometimes it’s condescension: some one who tells me how to live, how to work, how to create again (“isn’t she over it yet?”) Sometimes it’s the voice of the wind in the silence… a sense of desolation and futility, a sense that my life with him is passing into a dream, and that the river of time is bearing me away from him, that I have lost not only him but who I was when I was with him. The woman he loved died with him: no one knew her, only he, and no one will ever know her again. And only I know who I am without him: my strengths, my solitude, my vulnerability, my fierce resilience.

These things I learned during that last long year of darkness, and the longer years which have followed.

Never allow yourself to be shocked by anything. Never allow any one to know what you truly think.

Bows to the wind. Eyes on the horizon. Deal with it.

Ride the storm.