'I know about death' – Gordon Brown opens his heart over losing daughter Jennifer
GORDON Brown has hailed his wife Sarah as his "hero" as he spoke about how the couple coped with the death of their first child Jennifer.
Sarah famously introduced the Prime Minister on to the stage at last September's Labour conference in Brighton as "my hero, my husband", and Mr Brown returned the compliment yesterday in a highly personal interview.
In his most intimate interview to date, Mr Brown said Jennifer's death aged just ten days in 2002 had changed his life forever, and he constantly thought about what his daughter – who would now have been aged eight – would be doing if she had survived.
Speaking in the upstairs drawing room of his private flat in Downing Street, Mr Brown said the experience changed the way he deals with bereaved people, including the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
"I know about death," said Mr Brown. "There is a finality about death and if someone loses someone that is close to them you are never the same again. You cannot be the same person as you were before, particularly if that someone is young or, in our case, a child.
"You are always thinking of what could have been. Every year you are thinking of that daughter who was about to go to school or about to write for the first time, about to read, go to their first film or party, be a teenager.
"It changes your life forever. It makes you feel the value of time. We had our daughter only for ten days and I remember every single moment of that probably more vividly than anything else. We had the joy of her as well as the loss. I think it hurts to talk about it sometimes."
Mr Brown said it had taken him and Sarah a few days to realise their daughter would not live.
"There has got to be some purpose in tragedy. I remember how difficult it was to come to terms with what I had never wanted to come to terms with: that she was not going to live. It took a few days for us to recognise that there was nothing that could be done."
The Browns set up the Jennifer Brown Research Fund which supports research into premature birth in memory of their daughter. Asked if prayer had helped him, Mr Brown, who was brought up as a "son of the manse", replied: "Yes, but friends, Sarah and our family also."
Paying tribute to his wife, Mr Brown said: "She is my hero. No doubt about it – her beauty and her quiet dignified way of dealing with every challenge that we face."
When asked about how lucky he was to be so loved Mr Brown replied with reserve, saying: "She changed my life. And I now have two wonderful boys who have been through a lot together.
"If you do things together you can do things well. We are a very, very happy family and in this job it is very important."
Despite his empathy to those who have lost loved ones, Mr Brown was accused of insensitivity after claims he misspelt the surname of Guardsman Jamie Janes, killed in Afghanistan, in a letter of condolence to the soldier's mother.
The Prime Minister's subsequent telephone call to the mother was taped and published in a tabloid newspaper.
He said: "I wanted her to know that every time a soldier dies in Afghanistan I have to think: 'Are we doing the right thing? Is this right that we are on this enterprise?'"
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