I always like to think I come across as a confident, outgoing and extroverted person. As a local politician, I can interact with hundreds of people over the course of a week with a big smile and grin, but what the majority of those will never see is a dark void inside me, and a deep disconnect I have with the world.
Alice was twenty-two when she passed away, she was not just the love of my life, but a soulmate. We shared a bond and connection with each other that was special and unique. Alice sent me a letter once, she said “I thank God everyday for blessing me with such a perfect Gentleman. You mean everything to me. You are rare and wonderful and make me laugh on my saddest days, you are a shoulder to cry on and a firm ‘Rock’ foundation”. I felt exactly the same way about Alice, but she was always far more expressive than me.
We had our entire life planned out, our careers, where we would live (spoiler alert it wasn’t Basildon), what names we should give our children. The day she died we were talking about what songs we would play at our wedding, who would have thought that a week later I would be planning the songs to be played at her funeral?
The last moments I spent with Alice were pure bliss, we hugged each other tight, we told each other how much we loved each other, and I told her I would see her again soon. This is a memory that will stay with me forever.
What will also stay with me forever is how Alice gave me the confidence to live my life, she pushed me to go out of my comfort zone and do things I never would have done. She would dance with me, laugh with me, sing with me and would always be there for me.
My life, now, has a dark void in it. A hole that will never be filled.
It is very difficult for others to comprehend what I am going through, people with the best of intentions try to find me help and say “things will get better” , “you will learn how to manage” or “you need to talk to a counsellor”. The reality I, and I am sure many people who have lost a loved one face, is that there is no getting better, there is no real way of managing the feelings and there is often nothing a counsellor can say to make things any easier.
In an instant life can decide to take everything we work so hard to build and every person we love so much away. For me personally, one of the most difficult things has been learning to live with ‘life’ as best I can and accepting that there is and never will be a cheat sheet, or silver bullet when dealing with loss.
When you meet me, you will never see it, but on many nights, I go to sleep crying, desperately longing for Alice to be back in my life. I would go to the ends of the earth to have one last hug with her.
I know, deep down, that hug will never come, and I have no choice but to drag myself up in the morning and get on with life. I am left to get on with life, with a dark void inside me.
This dark reality has given me a realisation, it has really helped me appreciate the insignificance of everything, and highlight the importance of squeezing every last moment of life we can out of the time we are given.
Last year I completed a walk across England with Alice’s parents Max and Jane. We started the walk at St Bee’s where I picked up two stones from the beach, a stone for myself and a stone for Alice. I carried the two stones across England and in a strange way, it felt like Alice was with us. At the conclusion of the walk I threw both into the sea at Robins Hood Bay.
The stones were consumed by the waves however they reminded me of a gift Alice gave me way back in 2011.
It was a stone in the shape of a love heart, she gave it to me with the words “even though I might not be by your side, my love will always be with you”
It took me a good two years after her death before I was even able to hold that stone in my hand and whilst I may never be able to hug Alice again. I know her love will never leave me.
For those reading this. Remember to live your life with love and joy. Be kind to others and don’t waste the time you have been blessed with.
I am going to conclude on a poem from the Lord of the Rings:
When the cold of Winter comes
Starless night will cover day
In the veiling of the sun
We will walk in bitter rain
But in dreams
I still hear your name
And in dreams
We will meet again