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Seamus Heaney’s widow Marie commended for poignant interview about life after his death

By Patricia Murphy

Published 21/09/2016

Marie and Seamus Heaney with their son Christopher
Marie and Seamus Heaney with their son Christopher

The widow of esteemed poet Seamus Heaney has said reading his words is the most difficult thing to do following his death in 2013.

Marie Heaney said it was after her husband’s death that she realised how much of himself was poured into his work and said reading his poems is one of the hardest things to do now that he is gone.

Soul mates: Marie and Seamus Heaney
Soul mates: Marie and Seamus Heaney

The editor was commended for her poignant interview with Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio One, in which she opened up about her 48-year-marriage to the Nobel Prize awarded poet.

The couple married in 1965 and had three children together, Michael, Christopher and Catherine Ann.

“I find reading his words the most difficult things to do. I was nearly always the first reader of his poems but now that he’s gone I realise how much of him is in his poems. He was an utterly committed poet.

“I did sort of close down. I was very lucky with the nature of his death- it was an extremely peaceful death. He was on the way to the operating theatre when he simply stopped talking and so the shock, I was utterly numb, as was the whole family for a long time. I had to do many things, it was great in a way that numbness because it meant I could carry on and keep busy and hold myself alright in public. I was on autopilot,” she said.

Marie revealed that three years after his death, she is beginning to feel like herself again and find joy in the little things that she had lost interest in for so long.

“I was very lucky that I was able to grieve without going into a deep depression. You know, you don’t realise how sick you are until you get better and now I realise. I had switched off and closed down and I’m coming back to life. I’m interested in things that I had lost interest in. They seemed meaningless, a lot of things did as any widow will tell you.

“When I finally did grieve, I howled. The small things upset me. You have to let this enormous grief out and it comes out in crying and weeping. I think you know you’re mending when those bouts of grief, which are still very acute, are shorter and spaced further apart,” she said.

Marie admitted that she has no regrets about her life with Seamus and said it was his humour and kind heart that made fall in love with him.

“I have no huge remorse, we lived very happily and had been married for 48 years when Seamus died.

“Seamus and I met and we had so much in common, we got on very, very well. After a very short time, we knew that we would be together which was very unlike us because we were a cautious pair but we did know that we would be together.

"We came from the same area, we both studied English and we both had a great deal in common. I remember Seamus saying to me ‘I’ve noticed you were taking in as much as I was’. He had a very good scanning device and I have too.

Marie Heaney the widow of poet laureate Seamus Heaney, with a bust of her late husband
Marie Heaney the widow of poet laureate Seamus Heaney, with a bust of her late husband
Marie Heaney and her brother-in-law Hugh Heaney, the brother of poet laureate Seamus Heaney, attend the unveiling of a bust in honour of her late husband in Sandymount Green, Dublin

“First of all, I had heard about him because he was very brilliant. Secondly, people never thought this about Seamus because his work was so serious, but he was great fun. People who had never met him before would have registered he was very funny. He was an extremely thoughtful and caring person,” said Marie.

During the interview, Marie revealed that the poems that she holds closest to her heart is Embankment Walk, which she said captured a significant moment early in their relationship.

“One of the very last poems he wrote was in the ambulance after his stroke, but the two of the very early poems I like them. The first poem he gave me was called Embankment Walk, it was about us walking down the Embankment in Belfast.

Seamus Heaney’s widow Marie at the HomePlace centre dedicated to the poet’s memory
Seamus Heaney’s widow Marie at the HomePlace centre dedicated to the poet’s memory

“It ends up still water is running deep beside the Embankment Walk. It had been one of those significant walks and to have it so beautifully put in paper was extraordinary.

“Another one I think that’s read at virtually every wedding in Ireland is Scaffolding, that was written in our very early days too after a very small sort of rift or tiff of some kind and he produced that. I know it by heart.

“It’s small things at home and his work that upsets me the most,” she said.

Marie Heaney with the portrait of her husband
Marie Heaney with the portrait of her husband

Marie Heaney has just released her own collection of lullabies and poems called 'All Through The Night' published by Poetry Ireland

Seamus Heaney’s headstone, bearing the inscription 'Walk on air against your better judgement'
Seamus Heaney’s headstone, bearing the inscription 'Walk on air against your better judgement'

Irish Independent

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