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Behind a name

February 10 2012
Thoughts about Colin Bowles, who died on 8 November 2011


This is a response to the list of names read out at the annual service of commemoration in November [see the December issue]. I am writing this piece for every person listed who died and who was somebody’s son, daughter, brother, sister, wife, husband or lover. We need to remember them - all of them - as people, as otherwise they may be forgotten. And I, for one, do not wish this to happen.

Colin Bowles died on 8 November 2011. I would feel very honoured to try and tell you a little of his story.

While I was working at Great Chapel St Medical Centre as a counsellor, Colin came to see me for bereavement counselling. What he thought was going to be a few weeks of counselling turned, in the end, into two years. He very rarely missed a session. If he did, it was solely due to feeling so overwhelmed that he needed a bit of distance between himself and his story.

I am truly glad that he felt safe enough to come each week and share his story. Previously, he had not felt able or sufficiently trusting to do so.

As a child, Colin had been severely abused in all senses of the word and had never had any place to talk about his horrific and tormenting experiences.

Having his own family he felt was his one chance. Yet tragically his wife died from cancer, and he lost both his children in a boating accident one year later. These two events sent him over the edge. He walked out of his home to be on the streets, leaving everything behind. His tragedy was unbearable, and home was too painful a reminder of all his losses.

Colin believed his turning-point came on an operating table after a major heart scare. He fought back from the brink of death. He believed that he had been offered one last chance and was determined to try and enjoy life despite his dire situation.

A team of people helped Colin get back on his feet. We all worked “at his pace”. He needed to be in control, having been through so many experiences in his life over which he had no control.

First he secured accommodation in a hostel; then he moved to a more long-term place; and latterly he moved out of London to a ground-floor flat, where he could have a dog for company and grow some of his own vegetables.

He would talk to anyone who would talk with him. He loved cooking for people and sharing what he made. He was always coming up with new ideas of things to do.

He was an amazing individual who defied what life threw at him, and held on to whatever positive thing came his way. The world is a far poorer place without him.