Widower who slept next to his dead wife for six days opens up to Ryan Tubridy
A widower who lost his "soul mate" to cervical cancer has told of how he slept next to her body for six days after she had died.
Russell Davison (50) lost his wife Wendy (50) in April and held a six-day vigil at their home in Derby, UK, after she had died because the pair did not want her body to be treated in a mortuary.
Speaking on the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio One, Russell explained that he and his childhood sweetheart Wendy believed the body and spirit should be in familiar surroundings with familiar people after death and "not in a refrigerator, pumped full of chemicals".
"The idea, for us, of ringing strangers a few hours after Wendy died to take her away in a black bag, mess with her, pump her full of chemicals and then keep her in a refrigerator away from us for weeks for a funeral just seemed so alien to us. We didn’t want to face that," said Russell.
"What we decided was that when Wendy died, whether it was in hospital or at home, we would bring her body home so we could lay her out and sit with her. And that worked so well. Originally we were going to have Wendy’s body in the lounge, but then I realised she would be alone at night. I decided to have her in the bedroom.
"We first came across [information]- from talking to the Rudolf Steiner community - that when the body dies, the spirit can take some time to transcend and during that period of time that it takes, the Buddists believe that it can be three days, they think that it’s a good idea to have the body in familiar surroundings with familiar people. That really resonated with us," he said.
Although Russell and Wendy had made plans in case she died in hospital, the family were relieved that she got her wish to die peacefully at home. Russell said a Japanese film called Departures, which focuses on Japan's customs surrounding death, inspired their unusual decision with regards to Wendy.
"When she died, we called the medical profession and they came out and confirmed she died. The Japanese connection is, me and Wendy had watched a film on recommendation from a friend, a beautiful film called Departures. This was about how the Japanese treat their dead as part of their culture.
"They ceremoniously wash the dead body in front of their family, very beautiful and really respectful.
"When Wendy died and the medical people had gone on, I washed Wendy’s body, not for hygiene reasons but for ceremonial reasons. Then myself, and two of our boys' girlfriends, we dressed her, we put some padded pants on in case there were any leaks, and then we put a lovely cotton dress on her. We lifted her and put her into her coffin, which we called a cocoon.
"Then we just put some light make-up on her lips and eyes. We put her prayer beads in her hands and started lighting some candles around her. It was a very peaceful scene."
After six days Wendy was cremated, and Russell said that although grief is more intense than he anticipated, the grieving process was aided by the vigil.
"We watched Wendy from death until we took her ourselves to the crematorium. We watched her just gently change and for us it was a very gentle process and in tune with nature.
"We felt that we were tuned into the process and it would help us come to terms with it. Rationally I know she’s dead, spiritually I have these beliefs that her spirit lives on. I’m really struggling to get my head around how she can’t be there.
"I was expecting all of the things that you hear about in terms of smell, deterioration, leaks ect and that just didn’t happen. But we embraced that anyway. If there was a smell or leaks we knew it would be nature and we would tune into it."
Since Wendy's death last month, the story has received much attention from the media, which Russell said has helped him in the grieving process.
"It’s not natural in itself to have all this media attention but that in itself has been a healing."