IT’S been quite a journey. Four years ago, my partner of 25 years passed away on 3 September 2014, just a few days before the independence referendum. Andy died of vascular dementia, a disease which progressed quickly, and which reduced a strong and confident man to a shell of his former self. One of his last actions was to sign his postal vote in the independence referendum. This Englishman, London born and bred, a former Royal Marine and Metropolitan policeman, voted for Scotland to regain its independence.

Andy told me once that he’d seen the British establishment up close. They care nothing for you, he said. They care nothing for working class people, whether Scottish or English. They only care about themselves, and if it suits their interests they will crush you and rip away from you everything that you hold dear. Scotland, he told me, deserves to be governed by people who love it. And he smiled that wry smile of his, the smile that had made me fall in love with him all those years before.

Andy never made it to that day of grief on September 18 when I was already dissolved in grief. I know that he’d have been disappointed. But I also know that he would have been so proud of the way in which independence supporters refused to be cowed. We stood up. We declared that we were going to ensure that the British establishment which had threatened, cajoled, and vowed its way to a No victory in the referendum was going to be held to account for the promises and commitment that it had made to the people of Scotland.

What I discovered in the days after Andy’s death was that I had already done so much of my grieving. Dementia is a cruel disease. It robs those who endure it of everything that makes them who they are, while those of us who love and care for them can only watch helplessly as their loved one’s memories, their personality, their character, dissolve in the tears of our grief.

My biggest fear had always been that when he died, that I would be crushed by the immensity of the loss, but what I discovered was that his passing meant that I was at the end of losing him, I’d already been losing him for years.

His death meant I couldn’t lose him any more. But his memories stay with me, they inform me and nourish me. The lessons he taught me about strength and personal reliance will always be with me.

I wasn’t crushed by the defeat in the referendum either. That campaign had taught a nation how to hope, how to dream of a better future. Those lessons, once learned, will never be unlearned. But I expected that it would be many years before the chance of another referendum would come again. I was prepared for many years, possibly decades, of hard endurance.

A year after the referendum, a year after Andy passed away, hope returned to my own life. Peter and I had been internet friends for almost 20 years, chatting online as life’s journey took us to different places. I had shared with him my fears when Andy was diagnosed, my terrors in the long dark nights when he was having a crisis. He digitally held my hand during the lonely times when Andy’s illness took him into distant reveries that no one else could share. I shared my hopes of a better Scotland that might one day be born.

But we’d never met in person. I was in London, then Spain, then Scotland. He was in Connecticut. In late summer of 2015, I went on holiday to the USA to meet him. And that was it. Sometimes you see a person, and you know that the connection between you is strong and deep.

There was more chemistry than in all of the North Sea’s oil and gas fields. It started a series of transatlantic crossings. Peter came here for a visit, and fell in love with this grey and damp country with its big heart and landscapes that make you weep with their beauty. We’ve been back and forth across the Atlantic ever since.

So now, three years later, we’re getting married on a beach in Maine. And I know that somewhere, Andy will be looking down with that smile on his face. Hope and joy are still alive, they were only hiding for a wee while. A new life beckons.

What has always struck me as the biggest difference between the independence movement and the campaign to prevent independence, is that it’s independence supporters who have the monopoly on joy.

Opponents of independence are miserable, they’re nay-sayers, hemmed in by limitations and what we can’t do, what we’re not allowed to do. They talk so much of poverty because they’re defined by poverty of spirit and imagination. The poetry and music, the joy in life, is all with those who support independence, because they’re the ones who dream of better things. Hope and joy are still alive, they were only hiding for a wee while.

Here and now, two years after the Brexit vote, Scotland yet again stands on the brink of a historic choice. The independence movement never went away. We were resolved to hold the British establishment to account, and now we will make them pay the price for their arrogance and the contempt with which they’ve treated the promises and commitments they made to the people of Scotland in 2014 to make us vote No. A better Scotland is coming. A new life beckons.

These past four years have been a journey from grief and despair to hope and joy. You can’t live without love, whether you’re a person or a nation. We’re on a journey to a country that’s defined by people who love it. That’s all that Scottish independence is about, the right of a country to be governed by people who care for it, who will love it and nuture it. As we get married on that beach in Maine at the end of this month, Peter and I will look across the ocean towards that distant northern country that’s home, and see hope on the horizon.