It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time ... continued

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It was obvious that Ronnie was going downhill fast, yet he refused to admit he was beaten.  He continued to think positive.  He sat staring out over the white flowers he had planted outside the bedroom window, and announced that it was his ambition to visit every great garden in Britain before he died. 
Yet even as he talked of the years to come, he was making plans for a less optimistic future.  'I think it's about time we got married,' he said one day in March.  'It feels right.  Don't you think?'
We had been engaged for about twelve years.  It must have been one of the longest engagements in history.  Yet the actual wedding ceremony had never been particularly important to us, and the fact that we separately owned properties and had separate incomes made it inadvisable for tax reasons, our accountant had always told us.  Now such matters seemed unimportant.  Ronnie wanted to make sure that I inherited whatever he had to leave.  The best way of securing my future, he felt, was to make an honest woman of me.
We booked Marylebone registry office for 3.00 on 26 March.  As Ronnie was very weak by this time and barely went out at all, I knew he could never cope with the strain of a full scale wedding.  This would be a very small and private affair, just the two of us and out witnesses, my niece Joanna and her husband Mark.  And we would have the reception in advance - lunch at our favourite restaurant La Poule au Pot at the end of Ebury Street, where we had done a lot of our courting.
The twenty-sixth of March turned out to be cold and dull.  I put on a black skirt with a cream blouse and cream jacket, and Joanna and Mark turned up with armfuls of bright yellow daffodils and a tiny wedding cake tied with yellow ribbons.
It was a very happy day.  Lunch was delicious and everyone refused to be sad.  I cut the little wedding cake, and then suddenly it was time time to rush away for our three o'clock slot. 
I hadn't wanted a special wedding ring, so Ronnie slipped the beautiful eternity ring he had given me some time before on to my finger.  We signed the register and that was it.  Now I was the new Mrs Sue Lloyd Allen.
It was a strange wedding in many ways, I suppose.  Most couples start out with the promise of a bright future in front of them.  With us it was just the reverse.  Yet it was a happy day.  Poignant, but very special and completely right.  Ronnie headed for the bedroom, totally exhausted but exhilirated too.
'I'm warm,' said Ronnie, sinking back contentedly on to his pillows.  'I've got somewhere to live, I can see my garden and I've got you Sue.  What more could I want?' 
I think our wedding day was the last time Ronnie ever went out.  Though he continued to think positive and believed passionately in life, it was obvious that he was slipping away bit by bit.
I contacted yet another faith-healer.  This man was as different from the vodka-swilling caped crusader as it was possible to be.  He could see auras, he explained, and made no promises about cures, but he did what he could.
Ronnie liked him immediately.  Somehow this healer gave him peace.  They talked for hours and the healer came back to see Ronnie a few times.  The last time, after praying with Ronnie, the healer came to talk to me.
'I've just seen the most incredible white light around Ronnie,' he said.  'It was extraordinary.  He looked almost priest-like.'
I didn't know what to make of this.  If it was a sign of healing power, Ronnie didn't seem to be feeling the benefit.
Our strange, bitter-sweet, enclosed life stumbled on just a little longer.  Then two weeks after the healer's visit, Ronnie collapsed without warning.  Frantically I called an ambulance and he was rushed to hospital, blue lights flashing.  But it was no use.  He was suffering from bronchial pneumonia and he was too weak to fight it.  He died shortly afterwards.
It was 18 June and his garden was a picture.  
There were many speakers at the particularly lovely and moving memorial service six months later.  One of these was Moray Watson, the Brigadier in The Darling Buds of May, who had been a great friend of Ronnie's for many years - since the BBC soap opera Compact, which they had worked on together.  At the service, Moray said something rather beautiful.  He said it was 'as if Ronnie and Sue had both been waiting half their lives for each other'.
That was exactly right.  I think we had.  And though I may have other friends and other loves, there will never be another man to replace Ronnie.  A love like that comes only once in a lifetime. 

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