The death of a loved one is a traumatic time for any family to deal with.
But immortalising a memory – the essence of what made this person special – is, for some, even more difficult.
But this is exactly what businessmen Nick Carter and Colin Wilson have set out to achieve with their newest venture.
The friends have launched a bespoke book service called The Time For Love Company, thought to be one of the first of its kind in the country.
It offers grieving families a different way to commemorate their loved ones.
Importantly, it gives families complete control on how they would like to remember them.
People are encouraged to use everything from poignant pictures and poems to private stories and songs to create a personalised memory book.
Launched late last year, the team have already produced several bespoke books and are on a mission to help more grieving families up and down the nation.
And, their aim is to offer the service to scores of British military families suffering a bereavement.
Nick, 63, from East Wittering, says: ‘They say you die twice, once when your body ceases to function and a second time when those who remember you go.
‘We don’t want this to happen. Our idea is about protecting a memory of someone – capturing the essence of their personality – and protecting this so it will live forever.
‘It’s about making sure this legacy is passed on to future generations and not lost.’
Initially the idea was Colin’s. The 56-year-old, who grew up in Gosport but now lives in Basingstoke, wanted a way to show his undying love for his now-fiancée Carolyn.
They met on November 1, in 2014, on a dating website and love soon blossomed.
But devoted Colin explains he wanted a way to express his love for Carolyn, as part of their first Valentine’s Day together, in 2015.
So, he went about building his own book, packed with 24 carefully chosen love songs – each with its own special message about why he had picked the tune for Carolyn,
Romantic Colin then included some of the most touching lyrics from the songs to represent how special their bond had become.
Caroline was blown away by the gesture and says: ‘It is very difficult to put into words how I felt when he gave me the book as so many emotions are hard to articulate.
‘Colin was showing me how much he loved me. And yet it is more than that. It was not the fact he had done this for me but more the fact he wanted to, that he was excited to do it, that he couldn’t wait for me to open it.
‘Somehow the book encompassed everything he felt and knew about me as a lasting memory. In a way the fact he wanted to do it makes me feel far more loved than the fact it was done.
‘To have a man feel about me, as I knew he must feel to have done this, is incredible. I hadn’t realised not only am I experiencing loving someone but I am experiencing being loved and that is a feeling even I cannot put into words.’
From there, the idea snowballed, with Nick soon wanting to create his own book for his fiancée, Dawn.
Colin soon noted the books could help those mourning the loss of a loved one.
The duo went about setting up their first book for those families grieving the loss of somebody close.
David Lees, 81, was the first to take up the service. He had been married to his wife Margaret for more than 60 years.
But his life was shattered when his soulmate was diagnosed with cancer.
Despite a brave battle, Maggie died at St Wilfrid’s Hospice, near Chichester, on December 19, 2015 – just six days before Christmas.
Her death left a gaping hole in David’s life and that of his 21-year-old granddaughter Hannah, who loved Maggie dearly.
‘She was a big part of our lives, we loved her so much,’ says David.
‘This was a massive loss for Hannah. When Maggie went into St Wilfrid’s I wanted a record of her – it was a commemoration of her life that we could both keep close to us.’
Despite having more than 200 people attend her funeral, David still felt there was something missing – a way of immortalising his wife’s memory and, more importantly, her ‘energetic personality’.
That’s when he approached Nick and Colin, becoming one of the first people to have a bespoke commemorative book created in Maggie’s honour.
‘I was absolutely delighted with it,’ admits David, who lives in the village of Westbourne, just outside Emsworth.
‘The production, the quality and the amount of effort that went into this was stunning.
‘This really helped me to get over the trauma of losing Maggie.’
Nick says the process of creating the book was an emotional one – but one he was proud to have completed.
‘Seeing David’s reaction to the book was incredible, it really meant the world,’ he says.
Nick adds: ‘He was delighted with the appreciation and gentle process that helped him through the grieving and produced a legacy of her that will live forever.’
The two entrepreneurs now have their eyes set upon helping commemorate the courage of Royal Marines and other armed forces personnel who have died while defending the nation.
They have both been in talk with the Royal Marines Association to see whether it is something the Portsmouth-based charity would be keen to back.
Colin says he wanted to make sure the memories and sacrifices of these Marines were not forgotten by future generations of their family.
He explains that is something he has experienced first hand.
A number of his ancestors – who served as Royal Marines in both world wars – are buried in Gosport but the stories of their lives have faded over time.
‘I knew a lot of them were in the Marines but it wasn’t until I started looking into their service records that I found out their stories,’ he says. ‘One was freed from a prisoner-of-war camp in the Second World War.
‘I asked my kids “do you know how many of your family are Marines?” They weren’t sure.
‘That’s my fault and my father’s fault.’
He adds: ‘These people gave their lives in some cases for the country.
‘The current generation is at risk of losing touch with that legacy. That’s something that can’t happen.’
As well as the Time to Remember line of books, the duo also offer services to mark christenings, retirements, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and others.
For more information about the services offered by the team, or to find out more about how they can help, visit the company’s website at thetimeforlove.com
CHARITY LIKES PAIR’S IDEA
A CHARITY which supports thousands of Royal Marines across the UK has welcomed new plans to help commemorate the memories of fallen servicemen.
The Royal Marines Association, which is based at Whale Island, in Portsmouth, was contacted by entrepreneurs Colin Wilson and Nick Carter about their idea to create bespoke books for families mourning the loss of a loved one.
Showcasing their designs to serving Marines and their families, during a reunion event last year, Mr Carter said there had been a ‘real interest’ in the service for the designs.
Cameron March, principal veterans support officer with the good cause, has since met the duo to discuss their plans and welcomed the idea.
He added: ‘It will be a good thing. But it might be few and far between who can afford it.’