Saturday 3 December 2016

A widow is always a different person than a wife

Published 10/05/2015 | 02:30

Dick West and Mary Kenny
Dick West and Mary Kenny
Dick West
Dick West and Mary Kenny

My husband Richard died on the weekend of the Nepalese earthquake disaster, and watching the terrible scenes from Kathmandu, I wondered if it was selfish to be more concerned about our own private losses than the great tragedies that befall so many others. Yet that is the way of human experience. I changed from a wife to a widow on a Saturday afternoon, and though it was far from unexpected, it left a draining void and for the next three days I felt poleaxed by migraine.

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Richard died at home after many years of being disabled by a stroke and after months of visible decline. At the end, he looked as emaciated as an El Greco painting. But the stiff upper lip served him well - as the old Greeks knew, stoicism is a support in suffering.

Except in a jokey way - "would you like a sherry, dear?" "No, a chalice of Hemlock and a loaded revolver" - he would never have requested anything like assisted suicide: he was too much of an old-fashioned Anglican, and an admirer of the Book of Common Prayer, which intones: "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord." I don't mean that in any kind of sanctimonious way, which wouldn't have been his style at all.

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