I remember so vividly the day, almost 40 years ago, when I went
into my nine-year-old daughter Rosanne’s bedroom and found her
sobbing her heart out. I put my arms round her but did not say a
word. I knew why she was crying because my own heart was breaking
too. It was just six weeks since her beloved sister, Sharleen, had
My husband Roy and I had been living in Singapore, where he was
working, with our two daughters. His work took him to many
countries. We had already spent three years in Istanbul, where
Sharleen had been born, and then went back to my native Scotland,
where Rosanne was born.
I was happy. I had a perfect family and my wanderlust, whetted by
two years in Egypt during wartime service, was satisfied by Roy’s
job. We were all enjoying our stay in Singapore until that day when
Sharleen took ill. A local doctor prescribed some medicine that,
instead of curing her, killed her. It was the drug chloramphenicol
and Sharleen’s blood was allergic to it. When the doctors realised,
she was immediately flown home to Great Ormond Street Hospital in
London but she died within a few days.
I too wanted to die. I remember walking off the pavement in front
of an oncoming car hoping that would be the end. The car pulled up
inches from me with a loud screech of brakes. I do not recall
feeling sorry for the driver – only disappointment at my failure –
but I have lived with my guilt ever since.
It was not until I saw Rosanne’s tears that I realised what I was
doing. I was so deeply entrenched in my own grief that, instead of
sharing my sympathy and understanding with Rosanne and Roy, I was
wallowing in my own distress. Rosanne and Roy needed my love more
than ever before, just as I needed theirs.
Until Sharleen’s illness I had been writing the daily storyline for
a children’s strip about a little Scottish seal called Sandy. I
turned my attention back to this. It was difficult to write amusing
words when I was still weeping but I persevered. It was hard, too,
to let Rosanne out of my sight. When she asked to go on a Brownie
pack holiday Roy convinced me that we must encourage her to get on
with her own life. Today, Rosanne is a trained counsellor with
three lovely daughters.
Roy and I found happiness again, bound even closer by our common
tragedy. We settled in Scarborough, where Roy died. I have been
wheelchair-bound with multiple sclerosis for years and, when I
could no longer cope without my husband’s loving care, I moved into
an Anchor Trust residential home. Here I am content amid friendship
and peace. I look back on life’s sad and happy memories with
gratitude for having known so much love.
Nora Knox has multiple sclerosis and lives in a residential