The Truth & Beauty of Me – My wife will die with dignity in January

What an impossible sentence to think, comprehend or to write. My wife, Karen, my princess, will die with dignity in January. Her choice to seek an assisted suicide to end the pain and suffering she is in and avoid a horrible slow and painful death is now public knowledge. I have known since August. She took the decision in July and will go to Switzerland in January for an assisted suicide with Dignitas. She is calm, strong and completely at ease with her decision.

I am a mess of extreme and complex emotions. I cannot bear to see the pain she is in and how quickly she is getting worse but I also cannot bear to lose her. She is my best friend and life companion who I have spoken to several times a day for over forty years. She is a massive part of me. I am so lucky to have spent my time with her and admire the strength she has shown in dealing with what she has had to experience so far.

The images of me for my project have been taken as I have been going through the wildly fluctuating emotions I have been experiencing. Taking and looking at the images have been a helpful therapeutic experience. I write in a separate post phototherapy and therapeutic photography about work that has been done demonstrating the value of photography and photographs in the therapeutic process of healing.

I want to make notes here and now as I experience the raw emotions in the moment. I have been crying a lot. Violently on occasions. Then as if a storm has passed I become calm and think I am finding a way to get myself stable again. Then sleepless nights, nightmares, worry, helplessness and despair come along until I feel my body is on a rack that can be turned no further before I snap. The tormenting effort to find some other solution that doesn’t exist.

Something the project has brought out is the ying and yang, positive and negative, strong and weak tensions that are present in me at this time. A grieving process is taking place similar to that which I experienced as my mother took three months to die in hospital after a heart attack. I think grieving happens along its own path somehow. I am yearning for a loss that is coming while Karen is still here. I can’t make sense of it but perhaps with my therapist who I have engaged to help me through this I will be able to find a way to deal with it. I know this means falling apart at times and need to remember this when I fall apart.

There are moments of great tenderness and love as we are able to talk about the amazing life we have lived together. Photographs have helped us remember there was another time when we had such great adventures together. Living in the UK, Belgium, USA, Singapore and Spain. Bringing up three amazing sons Alex, Tom and Dan and having the joy of our lovely grandchildren Leo and Ella.

At the same time there has been a tremendous fight against one of the most horrible illnesses, Multiple Sclerosis. Starting with a tingle in fingertips and progressing to paralysis and spasm pain and never stopping its cruel and debilitating action.

My project began with me trying to photograph what it is like to live with somebody who is chronically ill. It soon came to a halt as I found it too difficult to experience the horrors of Karen’s illness and then take images. It was too upsetting. After a while keeping with McCullin’s idea that pain yields fertile photography stories I decided to turn the camera on myself and seek to capture my own experience of pain.

This developed further as I realised that at the same time as pain there was also pleasure. Progressively, Karen became involved in the project. She became comfortable seeing images of herself in the portfolio and has become part of the curation process. She reviewed and helped put together the current wip for the project set out above.

In this collection we have introduced some happier photographs than in earlier versions. Starting with a loving embrace in which everything seems ok and ending with a loving kiss to say everything is still ok. In between a torrent of fractures, tensions, tenderness and moments of total misery.

There are images of great happiness of Karen with Leo Ella Alex and myself. These moments are to be cherished and hard to reconcile with the hours of pain and suffering that these small moments are sandwiched between.

There is humour as Alex and Dan make fun of my project and some images I created to represent an idea of my state. Ella listening in asks if she can do that pose. On the way back from Halloween she insists we get on and do it there and then. Not to be outdone Alex offers himself to do his version. Leo declined until I offered him €15 to do it and he jumped at it. What is wonderful about these images is the fun of staging and scripting and the lovely smiles on Ella and Leo faces as they perform.

Between now and the end of next year I am going to go through a lot more emotions and difficult experiences. In this moment I can’t think about it. I wanted to capture what it feels like at the moment as I am sure it will be difficult to face in the future.

This project has a long way to go still.

Categories: Project Development SP, Sustainable Prospects

LEN

I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make
decisions.

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.