The life in your years.

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The following piece is my own tribute to my wife, read at her service the 29th May 2013.

Thank you, all of you, for coming here today and celebrating my wife Louise, or as I called her Lou Lou. Firstly, I have to say she would have been quite put out with us making such a big fuss: she never enjoyed being the centre of attention. Indeed, she would actively avoid it.

And may I add, Lou Lou read this speech. She insisted on final copy approval! But that will tell you something positive about how we and particularly she approached her life. So what can I tell you about this beautiful, gentle, and modest person who I was so proud to call my wife, and my best friend?

Well let me start by telling you about the first day I met her. And this is a story that was only shared with me a couple of years after the event. We both lived in Ilkley, by chance only a street apart; though we had never seen each other before the day we met. Lou had recently returned from San Francisco where she’d lived for 5 years. That was after another 5 years in Paris. She loved to travel!

Anyway, she’d called me a few days earlier to ask if I would do a freebie job for her employer the Ilkley Literature Festival. She’d been given my name by a friend of ours. Mine wasn’t the only name on her list, I was just lucky that with a surname beginning with ‘A’ that I was top of the list. That’s serendipity.  She explained that they had no money but maybe she could get me some free tickets to some of the events. A typical Yorkshire trait there.. 

So we agreed to meet at mine and discuss what was needed. I don’t know what it was that persuaded me to say ‘Yes’ to her. Her lovely slender physique, her beautiful blonde hair, cute nose, bright blue eyes. But in no time at all I was agreeing to everything she asked for. And there was a lot as I subsequently discovered. She was always very good at negotiating. And getting her own way. There’s nothing special in any of that. But here’s the thing. When she left, she went skipping away back to her house, reciting to herself “Emma Louise Ainsley, I’m going to be Louise Ainsley.” She’d already worked out that we would be together and that one day we would be married. This is what she told me two years later. To this day I’m eternally grateful that she did. 

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She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She was kind, intelligent and warm to everyone in her life. People sought her out for her counsel and guidance. She was open and would make time for everyone. And she would make you smile. Until she died, I know none of you here have ever been sad because of Lou. And even now she wouldn’t want you to be.

She had a generous spirit, a mischievous sense of fun (Brian who was with her the night they popped over the wall into San Fran Zoo for a midnight stroll, can vouch for that) and was deeply loved by everyone who became her friend. I believe that the quality of a person can often be measured by the quality of their friends and looking around today, by the messages that have poured in from around the world, this is testament to Lou Lou’s qualities as a person. 

She loved Dinosaurs. Maybe none of you knew that. The amount of times I’d come home and find Jurassic Park on TV was incredible. And she called me Alberto which sometimes became Albertosaurus. 

As you all know, especially if you have read her story, Lou Lou courageously battled her illness for many years, through all its different manifestations. With every battle she would just focus, deal with it and then move forward. I’m not saying it was ever easy, it wasn’t, far from it. But, she was an immensely strong, positive and determined woman who despite everything lived a very full and happy life. When those around her wanted to wrap her up in cotton wool she would have none of it. It wasn’t who she was. She wanted to be alive not just to exist.

She returned to work only a few weeks after her first amputation, which was remarkable and I remember when she was head of press and marketing at The Fringe, how one night she walked all over town between venues in complete agony due to the tumor in her leg. But she never said a word to anyone, she just got on with it. None of her colleagues ever knew. Only at home did she reveal how hard it had truly been for her. But she never wanted sympathy, or to be treated differently and she never wanted the illness to get the better of her. She was strong, brave and unique.

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She received the very best of care from world leading specialists, and I know they were a little bit in awe for her. One specialist even said it was a privilege to look after her.  She was special any which way you look at her.

When Lou Lou decided to share her story with all of us. She did so in order to help others. You see nothing in Lou’s life was ever really about Lou. In return and I must stress this, she drew real strength from the comments and love people shared with her in return. She loved knowing how far her story had traveled. Someone in Nepal, that particularly tickled her. And just how much it had indeed helped others.

We both read each and every comment and were ourselves humbled by what was shared with us. Many people said that what they read was inspirational, humbling and beautiful. That Lou Lou was brave extraordinary, incredible, amazing, special, funny and courageous. She said she was none of these things, but she was and much, much more besides.

What she also loved about the blog was the way that people said they would never take their own life for granted and would focus on what really matters – happiness, friends and family. In her own words she said  ‘And if one person can realise that, thanks to what’s happening with me, I’ll be a happy girl for ever.’ And she meant it.

She was very proud of what she had written. And serendipity led to the New Statesman, Daily Mail, Scotsman, Sunday Mail and the amazing collaboration with Rankin and the BBC. Which she absolutely loved.

As I’ve said, Lou was a great friend to many people as well as being my best friend. She adored her mum Gill who had worked so hard for her at every stage of her recent journey, but was also there for her unconditionally, her whole life. And she loved nothing better than spending quality time reading Vogue and or having a nice glass of wine over dinner with Gill. Chatting about nothing. I say nothing but I’d get a glare for that. Handbags and fashion were never nothing.

And she loved her ‘Daddy’. John was the chauffeur / international removals guy – driving Lou and her things to Oxford, Strasbourg, Paris and Edinburgh. Though Lou was quite put out when he wouldn’t drive her things to San Francisco. As well as this John undertook the majority of the trips to Stanmore throughout Lou’s illness.

It goes without saying that both have suffered a tremendous almost unbearable loss, especially cruel after the loss of Lou’s brother Richard. But to both of you, and all of us here, Lou wanted all of us to go on. Not to be sad, but remember her with pride, with happiness and for our memories to be full of love, laughter and joy.

She was equally loved and cherished by my mother, my brother, and his family. I know how deeply my son Jake felt about Lou. They had a very close bond and she adored him as much as he adored her. One time we went on holiday to a cabin by a beautiful Fjord in Lunden, Norway. It was a freezing cold but clear night and Lou and Jake laid out by the shoreline for what seemed like hours whilst Lou pointed out to Jake the different constellations above them. When Lou had her first chemo treatments in Leeds, Jake was 12, and without telling his mum he took himself off after school and turned up at the hospital to visit Lou. In between times he’d gone to the barbers and had all his hair shaved off. This was so Lou didn’t feel out of place as she’d lost all her hair.

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. But the life in your years. And Lou’s were full of life. So were all of ours with her in it. I believe she burned an unforgettable mark in all of our lives and changed them, each and every one, for the better.

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Lou Lou will always remain in my eyes, mind and heart to be imagined again and again and I’m sure yours too. She was rare. And we must be thankful that she was shared with each of us.

So few things blaze. So few things are beautiful. Our world doesn’t seem able to cope with brilliance for too long. Lou has vanished too soon from our lives, but she stands clear and bright in a world where much is dull, grey and drab. She came and rearranged our worlds for the better.

I miss Lou. I can still feel her hand on me. She gave me her faith, unquestioningly and trustfully – once when she agreed to move to Edinburgh with me and once when she agreed to marry me. She recently wrote to me that she loved it ‘when it was just us… on a beach, on a sofa, on a bench looking at a beautiful view, or in our bed looking at the trees in the Botanics. If you’re there I’m happy.’ I felt she entrusted her life to me. But she actually gave me the gift of life. And I think there are gifts still to come – gifts for all of us. Her influence walks with us all and profoundly affects the way we see things.

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Lou will rest somewhere where she loved a peaceful, beautiful spot in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales. A place where the two of us have many fond memories. But she won’t really be there. She will be out there with all of you. She will be looking at handbags in Harvey Nic’s. She will be a warm hug and a kiss on your cheek. She will be the laughter at the jokes she shared with you, with that mischievous little grin, far too beautiful to be forgotten. Lou Lou will always be with me and with all of us. I miss her incredibly, but I will love her forever.

Lou Lou will always be with me and with all of us. I miss her incredibly but I will love her forever.

 Your Alberto(saurus) Lou Lou xxxxxxx

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8 comments

  1. God bless Alan, sending you love and strength at this sad time.

    And from a selfish point of view, just reading this makes me realise that you can’t compromise when it comes to soul mates, and if that spark is not there, it is worth hanging back, being patient and waiting however long for the right person to come along.

    Hang in there lovely, there is a reason you are still here and that will come to you in time x

  2. Reblogged this on Phoenix Flights and commented:
    Funny how guidance comes to you when you really need it from the most unexpected sources.
    This beautiful tribute has certainly made me realise that, honestly? I’d rather be alone than settle for someone who is not right for me and losing the hope of ever having a relationship as beautiful as this one.
    And if I’ve screwed it up for this life? Then I’ll wait for the next one 🙂
    God bless all xx

  3. claire · · Reply

    Bawling my eyes out reading this. Thank you so SO much for sharing this with us.
    Sending more love than you could imagine, to you, Louise and all her family and friends

  4. Alan, every aspect of the words, pictures, stories and people around Louise echo her remarkable qualities…you both faced life with the style, dignity, humour, respect and honesty. A wonderful and rare cocktail! I hope we can keep in touch. David

  5. claired · · Reply

    Al, what a beautiful and moving tribute to a wonderful woman. Strange to bump into you on the street yesterday . I hope you didn’t mind my blurting out what Lou’s blog has meant to me for the last few months. What I should add is that Lou’s strength through her last months was also a testament to your strength and love for her. You’ll hold that with you forever…

  6. I just stumbled across this writing through a re-blog. If there is one thing I want to accomplish in life, it has always been since my youth to ‘help just one person’. In a mass world of so many human beings, I’d just love to somehow assist in the shift in someone’s perspective on their own life. It sounds like your wife has done much greater. I do not even know of you all until this moment and I am inspired to be further strong, inspirational and continue blogging as maybe for now in my disability; this is the one way I CAN help that ‘one person’. Many many many thanks for sharing these intimate moments with the www and us. It’s courageous and helpful. Most inspiring. Our deepest sympathies; sending you wishes for blessings and peace in your hearts. Jeanine H xox.

  7. Fiona · · Reply

    Beautiful words for a beautiful and courageous lady. Thank you for sharing so many memories, this blog is both heartbreaking and humbling. Sending you best wishes and my thoughts. Louise will forever be in your heart xx

  8. Beverley Hart · · Reply

    Hi Alan. We don’t really know each other but our paths have crossed through our work. I have been reading this blog for a while and I have been thinking of you both. But it also made me think about myself and what I wanted from my life. I too married my best friend. He means the world to me but I don’t tell him (I really should). It also made me focus on what was important to me in my life and my career. So I have packed in Agency life with all its irrelevant stresses and late nights and I find myself Head of Communications for an International cancer research agency. I work a lot from home, I work a 4 day week. This means I see my family. But I also work with a small bunch of really lovely and passionate people who are all trying to support scientist from all over the world to understand many different types of cancers and with the hope that one day we will be able to treat cancer more effectively and many more people will survive. So I have a lot to thank you and Lou for, even though we have never met – though I’m sure one day we will! With love Beverley

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