NORAH Casey looks like she is going to break down in tears. It is a few days after the second anniversary of the death of her husband Richard Hannaford on October 12, 2011, and the memories are flooding back.
Last week, in the house she shared with Richard, the TV star says she "didn't cope very well at all after he died".
"The reason I was working every job I could find for a year," she says, referring to Newstalk, Dragons' Den and The Afternoon Show on RTE, "was because I didn't really want to be on my own with those thoughts. I didn't feel comfortable. I did Dragons' Den that year. I didn't feel anything. I did the pilot for The Takeover straight after Richard died. I was busy but I wasn't happy busy."
Her 14-year-old, Dara, is upstairs doing his homework. Norah makes a cup of tea in the kitchen. This is the same kitchen in which Richard cooked Sunday roast for Norah, her sister Catherine and mother Mags, and first complained of back pain on May 8, 2011.
"I slagged him that he had had too many the night before at a party down the road in Margaret Nelson's house," Norah recalls.
"Almost four weeks to the day he was in a wheelchair. They went to take him to the Mater for emergency spinal surgery but when they did a scan they found even more cancer. So we started chemo-therapy in James's hospital, but from the beginning they were more or less saying: 'Is there a point in doing this?' We ploughed on. A lot of the time Richard was too ill to have the chemo."
Richard, she explains, was diagnosed on May 17 – "his birthday" – 2011, with a tumour on his kidney. A couple of weeks later the doctors did a scan "and found it had spread to his liver and his spine and his lymph nodes. He went to Luke's for radiotherapy for the spinal cancer and through no fault of theirs the tumour moved and it cracked his spine".
Richard died on October 12.
Norah and Dara marked the second anniversary of his death last weekend by visiting his oak tree in the Phoenix Park. The tree was planted in December 2011. "Richard loved trees," Norah says.
It was also the same spot where Richard asked her to marry him in February, 1996.
"He dropped to one knee. It is a very special place. We also scattered his ashes there in the woods behind the tree."
Norah has signed a big deal with Penguin Ireland to write a book, an autobiography of sorts. "I have already written 10,000 words," she says. "I have to do 80,000!"
The book will, she says, hopefully help people who have been through similar painful experiences. Norah points out that six months after Richard died, she met a woman in Dundrum.
"At the time I couldn't get the trauma of the last day or two of Richard's life out of my head. She told me that her husband had died not long before Richard and that those memories will go over time. She was right. It has faded a lot. Sometimes it intrudes a little bit but I have learned to replace it with nicer stuff."
Norah says there was one day in April last year when she was so low she couldn't get out of bed. "I had this huge hole in my life," she recalls. "And that was a really bad day – I couldn't function. I went back into work very quickly after Richard's funeral. I didn't want to get out of bed most of those mornings and it was really difficult for me to drag myself into the office.
"I hated this house, really hated it. We hadn't had enough happy memories here. We had all the times when he and I sat in these chairs after he had had chemo and all the times I struggled to get him up to bed and all the times when I tried to get him to eat something and he couldn't. Every time I walked into this house I felt all of that. I didn't feel anything positive."
How does she feel now?
"I feel so much better. I think maybe Dara and I have filled it with other memories. That is Richard's chair you're sitting in. I have stopped thinking of it like that. For the first year after Richard died I wouldn't sit in that chair. There are lots of things I wouldn't do. His half of the bed was perfectly preserved for the first year."
Asked when – if ever – would she feel ready to let another man into her heart, Norah says: "I can't answer that. How could I – when I am still in love with a man who doesn't exist? So I can't even contemplate that. I don't feel the void. I have a great son and a full life. I think we all get love, great love, and I've had mine."