The partner of the late Kiwi comedian Ewen Gilmour has spoken of her heartache at losing her soulmate.
On the eve of the anniversary of the shock death of one of the country's favourite entertainers, Bernie McKinley, pictured, is still coming to terms with a future without the man she planned to marry.
An hour-long television documentary featuring unseen footage from Gilmour's final stand-up show screens on Friday as a tribute to the 20-year career of a man who put West Auckland centre stage. He died hours after the show.
McKinley, a nurse, told the Herald on Sunday she feared for Gilmour's health in the hours after that performance and went through a heart attack checklist with him.
He assured her he was not experiencing any symptoms.
"I should have been pushy," she said. "He just went to sleep and then woke up having a heart attack."
She now suspects the stress he was experiencing earlier in the night signalled his health was deteriorating.
"It was awful. I kept running through that in my mind quite a bit. He was the last act on the show and feeling the pressure. I thought when he was talking about being anxious it was because of the show not because he was having a heart attack."
McKinley is dreading next Saturday's anniversary but would be trying to remember the lessons Gilmour taught her about coping with grief.
They once went to the cemetery where he tearfully recounted the pain after losing his wife Catherine to cancer in 2011.
"He told me what it was like to grieve and how anniversaries were hard, but I didn't understand because I hadn't lost anyone before. I have all this knowledge from him so hopefully I'll be okay."
Her personal tribute includes making good on a promise to paint a portrait of Gilmour.
"Before he passed away, we had decided I was going to paint a picture of him but it was going to be a silly, oversized, egotistical painting of him. I kept my word - but it's something a bit more serious."
McKinley said the couple, who had been together just six months before Gilmour's death, had a special connection from the moment they met.
"I remember our first date. We spent all night dancing together, then we went back to his motel and kept dancing until the sun came up.
"It was really that beautiful. We fell in love really fast."
The couple had started planning a wedding for next year.
"We had started to check out venues for the reception and even bought fairy lights. It was just devastating to lose all of that."
She was now left with treasured memories of romance tragically cut short.
"It was just like a party for two at his house. We used to have real funny times. He made you feel like the most special person in the world, he really did."
Ewen Gilmour: Westie Legend screens Friday October 2, 9.30pm on TV3