A young mother has written a moving account of how her husband died as they made love – uttering his final words ‘You’ve still got your socks on’.
Lucie Brownlee found herself widowed at 36 following Mark Johnston’s sudden death.
The pair had been trying for a baby and were making love at what was judged to be the best possible time to conceive.
But the Government intelligence analyst suffered a catastrophic arrhythmia – an abnormality in the heartbeat – and could not be revived.
Lucie first wrote a blog, then a book about the intensely personal journey which helped her cope with her own grief – and helped others who have lost loved ones.
She told how Mark’s last words were: “You’ve still got your socks on” and explains her feelings since with searing honesty.
Lucie, 38, who has a six-year-old daughter by him, said: “I was just at a complete loss as to what to do after Mark died and I started the blog and then the book as a way of handling it.
“I had to be completely candid. I was watching the programme ‘One Born Every Minute’ on TV and thought that was the most intimate moment of someone’s life to show on telly.
“But nobody speaks about death and I just felt it was so traumatic and so completely shocking that I had to tell it all, exactly as it happened.
“It almost removes a bit of the power of death. I understand that some people feel such things should be private and I also respect that.
“But I have been very, very candid about it and the lovely thing is that I have had other widows and widowers read it, and tell me ‘thanks for being so honest’.”
A lecturer as well as an author, Lucie, who lives near Sedgefield, Co Durham, went through months of being unable to work after Mark’s death, but then used her writing to give voice to her feelings.
Mark, who worked at GCHQ and was just 37 when he died, had collapsed four years prior to his death. Medics discovered that his aorta had ruptured. But he was believed to be fit and healthy after an op.
On the day of his death, they had been making love at Lucie’s mother’s house.
Lucie recalled: “It wasn’t ideal but we didn’t want to miss out on the window to conceive. We had only just started making love when he collapsed.
“His last words to me were, ‘you’ve still got your socks on’. I thought he’d collapsed with his heart, but it didn’t cross my mind that he wouldn’t wake up.
“I don’t think you can ever reconcile that – you cannot accept it because it is unacceptable.
“The person I was before 8.14 on the evening of February 11, 2012 is completely different to the person I was after 8.15.
“I have become stronger and done things I never thought I would be able to do, and yet been as fragile as sponge sugar.
“A new person emerges, and this is what I mean about writing about the most intimate things – it is not that I don’t care what people think, it is just there are no rules on what you need to get through.”
Lucie admits she ‘drank like a fish’ and embarked upon a ‘completely inappropriate’ affair in the wake of Mark’s death.
She added: “I had a fling with a plumber who had come round to do some work on my house.
“It was completely inappropriate, and my friends and family were worried that I wasn’t coping in the right way.
“But there is no appropriate way to deal with grief. Mine has been chaotic and unruly. There are no rules.”
Lucie started writing a blog in April last year and has just published “Me After You”. She added: “Once I did write again, it was lovely, because it was as though I was spending time with Mark every single day.
“He was such a positive person, so friendly and so loving.
“He was a one off in every possible way, including the way he died.”