In 1987, the identical twin brother of award-winning food photographer David Loftus, 24 years old, died after a deadly incorrectly calculated injection into the hospital. Since then, David has been tormented by sorrow and guilt.
So last year, more than 30 years later, he started a diary in which he records both their cherished childhood memories and the pain and regret he has suffered since John died.
This exclusive excerpt from his book, The Diary Of A Lone Twin, tells a moving and powerful story about love, loss and recovery.
Loneliness is a feeling other than & # 39; being alone & # 39 ;. One can be alone and completely at peace, but you can feel lonely even when others are around.
When my identical twin brother John died in 1987, at the age of 24, I was in a relationship, I had my mother, my brothers and sisters and my friends, but in one night I became the lonely man on earth.
I feel it so much less now, but it still sneaks me, just like last year during a photo shoot at Jamie Oliver's house in Essex.
Over the past 20 years we have done a lot of work together, but my diary reminds me of my grief during what should have been a pleasant shoot.
Peas in a pod: even David is struggling to say which twin John is and who is him in their childhood photos
& # 39; In the end it was a long, hot, heavy day, with some beautiful and inspiring food, a glorious landscape in the fields and gardens of Saffron Walden, and hundreds of photos taken.
& # 39; We were surrounded by black swans and their juvenile swans, tufted ducks and their chicks, peacocks and woodpeckers. But it was also a day of being surrounded by people, some of whom I know very well, but feel completely and desperately alone. & # 39;
That message comes from the diary that I kept in 2018, from January 1 to November 11, the year after the 30-year anniversary of John's death. Surviving thirty years as a singleton after spending nearly half of my life as identical twins.
In capturing my feelings, I was fed – even so long after his death – by a deep sense of injustice and purulent guilt about what happened to John. But I also wanted to show the ultimately positive self that lives and breathes today.
Of course, feelings of grief and loss can still overthrow me, like every seventh wave among incoming breakers, but now I just drive them a little better and a little longer.
In that respect, I am a success story, largely thanks to my best friend Tim, who, as a 14-year-old, survived an explosion that killed his identical twin Nick.
We were introduced by the late Dr. Elizabeth Bryan, a pioneer in the field of twin studies who knew that half of those who lose their identical twin will die within two years. Tragically, this statistic was confirmed when another lonely twin that I tried to help Dr. Bryan suggested took their own life just before our first date of encounter. I knew that even a death less in the world would make publishing my story worthwhile, but sometimes I wondered if I could continue investigating the loss, just as I couldn't shave myself wet since I had John had shaved in the hospital.
The contours of his face seemed so familiar to me that I get chased when I see my own mirror image and the feeling that I had on day one to complete my diary was for the first time since his death a very large, very clear mirror. see. .
WINTER / SPRING 2018
David Loftus in 2015. In 1987, his identical twin, 24 years old, died after a deadly incorrectly calculated injection in the hospital
So much in the career of a photographer depends on the people around them and a highlight of this part of the year was working with Prue Leith on her new book. Like them, the days were filled with color and vibrancy and this reminded me of why I turned to photography after John died, swapping the illustrator's lonely drawing board for the company of strangers circling behind a photographer's back and every movement of a person.
John was also an illustrator, and for those who have lived and worked together like us, the death of twins can make the surviving brother or sister so utterly robbed to doubt whether they can ever function as a full person.
Usually I have always felt a half person walking in the shadow of my lost twin, and there was an opportunity, shortly after he died, when I felt I might feel his presence. That was in a church in the Lake District where we had spent a lot of time in our youth.
Because I needed some time away from the friends with whom I was on vacation, I sat alone in the front seat when I felt a hand on each shoulder. Every hair on my body stood up and I shivered violently. The pressure was only kept for a few seconds, but what initially felt so cold and terrifying eventually became warm and reassuring.
I now wonder if emotional fatigue evoked this mythical moment, but I don't think so and I can't explain why, after John died, I started waking up at 1.25 am with a shock, confused and disoriented.
My mother told me later that this was the time of John's birth when I arrived ten minutes later.
When we were in our crib, he held my face with both hands, so tight that he pulled blood. Apparently I didn't answer, but I didn't cry either. I accepted his hold on me and I still have those crescent-shaped scars of babyhood today, one of John's few tangible legacies.
I am a success story, largely thanks to my best friend Tim, who as a 14-year-old survived an explosion that killed his identical twin Nick.
We grew up in Carshalton, Surrey, the oldest of our parents' four children. I have many memories of our running, attacking, chasing, flying through the air on our wooden & # 39; shabby boat & # 39; – a swing Father built to take place with the four of us.
It was a beautiful soft blue and would swing so high from the old plum tree at the bottom of the garden that I am sure the child's cries could be heard for miles. Our mother was a family doctor and our father, who died a few years before John, was a stockbroker, nicely dressed and impeccably fashioned. He was greatly disappointed when John, as we grew older, invariably got up before dinner or cheese and asked to be apologized. When he left the room, he would say without fail: & # 39; But Dad, life is so short. & # 39;
As always, he was right.
My earliest memory dates from October 31, 1967. The image is as clear as crystal: we on the deck of a ship, with our parents, near Southampton Sound.
We waved our handkerchiefs at passengers on the RMS Queen Mary when she started her last trip to California. John was so upset in front of me when my favorite handkerchief fluttered out of my little grip and disappeared into the green-blue wake of the departing liner that he also dropped his, so that they could be together forever.
A red polka dot and a blue polka dot hankie thrown through the swell. We saw how they became smaller and smaller, no longer upset by our loss. It was our birthday and we just turned four.
Last year, more than 30 years later, he started a diary in which he records both their cherished childhood memories and the pain and regret he has suffered since John died
John never let me forget that he was ten minutes older than me, but in home movies and photos taken when we were younger, I have no idea which of us is which. Distinguishing ourselves is only possible if we & # 39; in costume & # 39; his, John in the Captain Scarlet uniform, he got a Christmas.
I was very jealous of that and although my Indian uniform with feathered headdress eventually grew on me, John would always kill me with his gun before I even reached for a worn arrow in my quiver. Always ten minutes older.
After working with Jamie again for the first time in years, there was the added bonus that he took his son Buddy for one shoot at the end of July. Jamie was one of the two best men at my wedding with my dear wife Ange in 2016, and I am the godfather of Buddy. He is the sweetest of the sweet boys.
I am saddened that John will never meet my own son Paros or my daughter Pascale, nor she. The children from my marriage with my first wife Debbie, these two young adults are caring and sensitive souls, as I was reminded when we went on vacation with the family in July to Paros, the Greek island after which my son was named.
Because John and I spent many happy summers there, a visit seemed a must during my & # 39; year of retreat & # 39; but it was the first time I had been back since he died, and walking the whitewashed streets was overwhelming.
So also, was the evening that Paros jumped off rocks in a bay called Agios Fokas. After seeing me on the shore, photographing his silhouette against the setting sun, he said he knew it would evoke memories in me and he was right.
I have an almost identical photo of John, and the photo of Paros on my phone can easily be my twin: the same wild hair, deep brown, poked knees for maximum splash and a little belly of too much Greek food and beer.
I keep John's photo in my & # 39; curiosity cabinet & # 39 ;, a deeply personal room in my home in South West London, only shared with Ange and the kids.
A photo, taken at the front door of our parental home, shows John and me nervously in our uniform before we leave for our first day at our boys' primary school. Three years later we see skinny and bronzed, long hair soaked, hysterically smiling while we play in a swimming pool at Niagara Falls, 14 years old. God, we were happy on that journey.
Double joy: John and David with their mother in Surrey
The ephemera of our lives together covers 25 years. One of the last photos I have of John, pretty moody in black and white, is a photo I took in our backyard on a balmy evening in 1986.
It is so hard to believe that this beautiful boy was dying for less than a year.
At the time, everyone expected John and his long-term girlfriend Samantha to become engaged, but then came John & # 39; s brain tumor, first diagnosed in the summer of 1987.
After surgery to remove it in August, he was cancer free.
However, he continued to experience extreme headaches that were not diagnosed as meningitis until late, and when he had to be hospitalized again after much unnecessary suffering, our anger was primarily directed at a cold and unfriendly junior doctor who, now he is a professor and this events happened more than 30 years ago, I will Call S. We very much wanted John to be treated by someone else and his bosses seemed to agree, but on November 3, three days after our 24th birthday, it was Dr. S who walked into his hospital room to inject him with the antibiotic gentamicin.
John and I were alone and I helped him open a few presents that he was too ill to unpack on the day. Mine was a trip for him and Samantha on the Orient Express the following Easter.
The doctors thought he would be fit again by then, but his card for me was probably the last thing he wrote. The operation had left him somewhat squintly and without feeling on his right side, forcing him to use his left hand.
& # 39; Dear David. I love Johny x. I. O. U. 1 prezzie. & # 39; it reads.
It reminded me of a moment at the breakfast table many years earlier when his wry smile of superiority warned me that something was wrong. It was only when he buttered his toast that I realized that he was using his left hand, and it was handy.
That teen's desire to be different must have meant hours and hours of training to be left-handed.
The only time he ever needed that skill was on our last birthday together, and the trouble it took him to write every shaky letter is still tearing me apart when I see him today.
This time of year is always a countdown to the anniversary of John's death on November 11. When it arrived I was happy that I was distracted by long days of photography in Jamie's studio, my grief forever exacerbated by guilt because I don't like John. S had protected.
I have experienced again what happened millions of times and no matter what someone tells me, I will never forgive myself. Mother would be dr. S told that she didn't want him to give the injection that day, but because John didn't want to make a fuss, I didn't.
John never let me forget that he was ten minutes older than me
We later discovered that he had administered 80 times the prescribed amount of gentamicin. It was a careless mistake made by a young doctor under pressure, not intentional but avoidable.
Within seconds, John was violently ill and slipped into the coma where, shortly after waking up a few days later, he stayed until his death.
We took turns taking a 24-hour wake at his bedside and I was home when Mother called to say that John had died 20 minutes earlier. Somehow I managed to go to the hospital and, totally robbed and saddened, held the cool hand of his dead body for two hours.
Later, the hospital would no longer communicate and respond to our need, while the coroner and the General Medical Council seemed unwilling to answer our questions about procedures for administering potentially dangerous drugs.
What dr. S is concerned, he would become professor S in a hospital elsewhere. He never apologized for what he did and my family continues to feel great bitterness and anger about John's death.
It plummeted so dark and deep in an ocean of solitude that I thought I would never find my way to the surface, but two years later I met Tim. We had reserved half an hour for our first chat, but we talked for hours and hours. Both struggled with lonely twins, we were like lost friends who were reunited forever.
With Tim I noticed that I laughed as if I hadn't laughed for a long time and he filled a huge gap in my life.
I once read a newspaper article about the & # 39; Top 10 types of people to prevent them from having a long-term relationship & # 39 ;. Pop stars were at the top, but identical twins were number two and photographers were number three, and the article even said that the only thing worse than identical twins was lonely identical twins.
I'm sure my first wife Debbie would agree. We got married in 1990 and although we eventually broke up 20 years later, I will always be grateful that she persuaded me to become a father. Together with Tim it was Pascale and Paros who saved my life, just like Ange I met when she worked for Jamie Oliver's company.
On my first date with Ange, I staggered to tell her about John – she now tells me that the way I told her was like telling the story for the first time, there was so much hesitant emotion in my voice. Later, waiting for our taxi's, I braved a hug and a soft kiss, surprised and relieved and oh, so excited to see her head turn to mine for the first of an eternal number of kisses on the lips. Our fate was sealed, sealed with a loving kiss.
In our early days together, she found a patch on my upper back that still reassures us today when she puts her hand on it. I think that is where John calmed me in the womb.
I once read a newspaper article about the & # 39; Top 10 types of people to prevent them from having a long-term relationship & # 39 ;. Pop stars were at the top, but identical twins were number two and photographers were number three, and the article even said that the only thing worse than identical twins was lonely identical twins. Twin sisters saw & # 39; fight & # 39; in their mother's womb in ultrasound
I am glad she is the only one who can feel the extraordinary energy it gives and when we got married, with Tim who came to Jamie as my other best man, I had John's companion Strawbod sticking out of my pocket. Ten centimeters from a worn teddy bear with bead-shaped brown eyes and a poorly knitted scarf – the handiwork of a nine-year-old John – he remains a small part of my twin and occupies a prominent place in the cabinet of curiosities, that maze of memories of my life .
My love for Ange somehow has the & # 39; enchantment & # 39; broken that this was an inviolable sanctuary and we have added new trinkets – a metal-blue tit purchased in Kew Gardens after a midsummer walk, drawings of the children, a green and yellow sea anemone beach – combed by Paros on that recent trip to the island he was named after .
Nowadays it feels so much clearer and more positive, a fresh wind blows through every corner and hole and I no longer feel the intense anger of that time, but an immense, non-healing bruise of grief.
I am also grateful that, unlike so many others, I was not sent to an early grave by my broken heart, although I came close to the hospital on the day of John's death.
That night I lay on my bed and felt myself fall deeper and deeper into a black hole, the ceiling became farther and farther away until I awoke with an almighty inhalation.
I realized that 14 hours after John died, I also wanted to die myself. I was furious with myself and with Dr. S and his cronies, but I was also determined that I would not abandon John, determined that I would take care of our mother, determined that I would live.
■ Diary Of A Lone Twin by David Loftus is published by Bluebird, £ 16.99. (c) David Loftus. To order a copy for £ 13.60, call 0844 571 0640. P&P free with orders over £ 15. Offer valid until 10/09/2019.
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