Skip to content

One Year On

It was a year ago today that Christopher died. Well, it was on 7th August, but that was a Saturday last year, so it was yesterday that really hurt the most.  Thank you all very much for your cards, thoughts, emails and blog comments – you probably don’t realise how much help you’re being.

I escaped from the Big Chill and went to spend the weekend with my parents in Kent. My sister and her boyfriend were there too, and it was good to see them all.We had a “commemorative meal” on Saturday night, when we all raised a glass to the memory of Christopher.

Merton College, Christopher’s old Oxford College have been in touch, asking if I would help them write an obituary of him for their alumni magazine. I dug out the speaking notes I used at his funeral and sent them to Merton – which made me realise that I never posted them here. Today seems a particularly appropriate day to do so.

Christopher Booth 1964 – 2010

I first met Chris in 1989, when I started work at the same research labs as him. He avoided me at first, which seemed odd. It turned out that he had a history of girlfriends called Gill/Gillian, and when he heard that there was a new graduate called Gillian he hid in his office for months when I was around! He was right to fear that he’d finally met his match – though it was his secretary who made the push to get us together. She would sidle up to me and say “That Chris really fancies you”, then go to him and tell him “That Gillian thinks you’re a bit of alright”. And to begin with, it wasn’t even true! But we did get together, on May Day 1990 in Oxford where I was studying for my doctorate. There was an IRA bomb scare and we had to walk around Oxford for hours before the all clear was given and we were allowed back to my college.

What initially attracted me was his intelligence, his sense of humour (dreadful puns!), his kindness, inquisitiveness and (not least) his excellent cooking.

In 1993 we got married in Upstate New York in the courthouse at Fort Edward. We first had to convince the judge that we weren’t wanting to emigrate to the USA! We chose the location to be close to Christopher’s cousin and godmother. After his mother died she was like a surrogate mother to him. My family and our close friends came over to join us and it was a really happy day.

I want to tell you a bit about the Chris I knew. He has lots of interests and threw himself into them wholeheartedly.

  • archery – he shot for the university and made close friends for life
  • the guitar – he wanted to be able to play Bach’s lute suites on the guitar, and kept going until he could.
  • sign language – he was fascinated with the fact that it was a language in the same way as French and German, and went to evening classes to learn it to understand better first hand how a spatial language works
  • photography – when I first knew him he used to take dreadful photos. I gave him a digital camera for his 40th birthday` and regretted it ever since! It became an all-consuming hobby. But it did mean that he was always willing to go out for trips/away on holiday – so long as he could bring a camera with him.
  • Librivox – an online community who record books to put into the public domain. Chris threw himself into the Love Letters of Elisabeth and Robert Browning, and I think that maybe recording Robert brought out his romantic side.

In September 2009, Chris was made redundant from his job. He was as happy as I’ve ever seen him – full of plans for finding out what he wanted to do with the next stage of his career. He decided to use the redundancy money to support himself while he tried to find a way to make his hobbies pay. In the meantime he happily volunteered to be a “house husband” and support me in my career.

But in August 2009 he had already started having trouble swallowing. The doctors could find nothing wrong, and suggested it was acid reflux. We had a last foreign holiday that October in Malta (an island which he loved and wanted eventually to retire to), but his swallowing problems were becoming more and more severe.

He was finally diagnosed in December 2009 with inoperable oesophageal cancer – just two days before Christmas.

Chris started blogging about his diagnosis and treatment, initially to let people know what was going on – to save us from making 20 phone calls every night saying the same thing. But quickly it became a source of strength – initially to him and subsequently to me too.

Chris faced his diagnosis and prognosis with immense courage and openness. This was partly his scientific mind – always wanting to understand what was happening. He found the chemo very difficult, but was determined “not to be miserable for the rest of his life”. He kept on doing the things he enjoyed – the theatre, concerts, visiting castles/stately homes, meeting friends for coffee, having Saturday lunch at our favourite pub.

He had a good month in June 2010 when he was in partial remission. We had a lovely and very happy holiday in Wales. But things started to get worse in July, and in the end he went downhill very rapidly. He died on August 7th.

I will always remember Christopher as a thoroughly kind and decent man. He believed strongly in fairness and justice. He was open to new experiences, and keen to share them with others. He was extremely supportive of me, and we made a good team together.

We had a very happy twenty years together, and I miss him so much.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. Ryan | 8 August 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    This is a sad anniversary, indeed. I am glad that you made it through with the help of your family and friends. I had only known Chris for a few months, so thank you for posting your speaking notes about Chris. I already knew about his archery and photography hobbies, but I did not know about his guitar playing! Did he record anything, and if so, would he have been comfortable with sharing his performances with others? (Okay, that was a complicated request, so I apologize that my curiosity has gotten the best of me!)

    As for sign language, I bought some learning material about a year ago, but I haven’t gone through it with any real effort. What you’ve written about Chris has inspired me to actually give sign language another shot!

  2. Gillian | 8 August 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Hello Ryan. No, sadly Chris never recorded any of his guitar playing. That was before he got into Librivox and had all the recording kit. Mind you, it would have been funny if he’d tried to shut himself, the guitar and the microphone/amplifier all in our tiny larder in order to make a recording like he did with his LV stuff!

  3. David A | 9 August 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Thanks very much for posting your notes. Thinking of you at this time of year. D&A

  4. Mantina | 30 August 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    My thoughts are with you GIllian