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After Chris Perry.




Ten years ago today I was… what? Still in shock. On the 30th July 2002, my husband Chris Perry died suddenly of the lung cancer he was diagnosed with on 7th December 2000 (his friends will know how ironic that date was).


I can\’t remember anything about those days. It\’s probably in my diary somewhere, if I knew what had happened to the diary – I may have sent it off to the collection of my papers at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University. Or it may be in a box in an attic somewhere.


I do remember how kind people were, how they rallied round to help. Neighbours, friends, our GP – all of them did something touching and kind and practical to help. I remember how Chris\’s best friend John Kallaugher, an extremely busy American lawyer working in London, took my call, heard what I said to him, cancelled everything and drove for five hours so he could arrive on my doorstep to do whatever he could.


I remember being quite offensive to the funeral director: I wanted the Battle Hymn of the Republic at Chris\’s funeral. He produced the watered-down respectable version and I practically spat at him: it had to be the full-on red-blooded Battle Hymn we both loved to belt out.


I remember being quite unable to say the word \”coffin\” at the start of the funeral and being suddenly hugged by Chris\’s mother with whom I had never got on very well. I was proud of the way all my family, including my aunt and my cousins, made long journeys to be there.


I remember watching in dazed horror in some coffee shop somewhere weeks later as a wife relentlessly criticised her husband. She could have been me. One of my great faults was being constantly critical. Chris had plenty of faults of his own, but I think that was my worst (of many). So on the spot I decided that in memory of Chris, I would reverse what I normally did.


To this day, I try and replace criticism with praise – instead of looking for faults, I look for virtues. This doesn\’t always work (some people feel I\’m being patronising) and I try only to give honest praise not flattery, but remarkably it makes my own life much more pleasant. It also gets easier with practice.


I still miss him often, still catch myself buying on-offer steak for him in supermarkets, still start thinking how I\’d argue the case for a movie I like, wondering what his views would be on some of the changes to the legal system and the behaviour of the current crop of Poshboy politicians – incendiary, no doubt. Especially as he knew some of them when they were mere Turgids at Oxford.


He left me three wonderful children who remind me of him often and many very funny stories. I believe we\’ll meet again one day, somehow.


In the meantime, thank you, Chris.


  1. anne says:

    I will try harder to let up on my husband. I always wondered it David Becket or the dad in the Jack books was based on your husband.

    1. patricia says:

      Yes – actually they both were, in a way, though you can never use a real person as a character in a novel. Real people are much too complicated. The dad in the Jack books was nearest to Chris; Becket was inspired by several people, perhaps more what Chris might have been in a previous life (?!) I’m glad you’re trying to let up on your husband – constant criticism is such an easy habit to get into and so destructive.

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