Damian Lewis praises Helen McCrory’s “greatest and most exquisite act of bravery” in emotional tribute

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Lauren Geall
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Helen McCrory and Damian Lewis

In a piece for The Sunday Times, the actor Damian Lewis has praised his wife Helen McCrory’s “fearlessness, wit, curiosity, talent and beauty” after her death aged 52.     

On Friday, the world was shocked by the news that Helen McCrory – a brilliant actor and individual known for her roles in Peaky Blinders, Harry Potter and The Queen – had died aged 52 from cancer.

Within minutes of her death being confirmed by her husband, the actor Damian Lewis, on Twitter, tributes for the actor were pouring in, with celebrities and fans alike taking the time to reflect on McCrory’s incredible career – both in terms of the roles she played and the charitable work she did alongside her acting.

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And now, in his second public tribute to McCrory, Lewis has written a piece for The Sunday Times, in which he describes his wife as being “utterly heroic in her illness”.  

Describing how McCrory had “shone more brightly in the last months than you would imagine even the brightest star could shine,” Lewis told of how McCrory had encouraged him and their children to “live fully, take opportunities, have adventures,” and love again after her death.

“Her greatest and most exquisite act of bravery and generosity has been to ‘normalise’ her death,” he wrote. 

Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory
Lewis said McCrory's “greatest and most exquisite act of bravery and generosity” was ‘normalising’ her death.

“She’s shown no fear, no bitterness, no self-pity, only armed us with the courage to go on and insisted that no one be sad, because she is happy.

“I’m staggered by her. She’s been a meteor in our life.” 

Alongside reflecting on McCrory’s final moments, Lewis also used the piece to pay tribute to his wife’s incredible life, including her commitment to living “by the principle of kindness and generosity.” 

“I’ve never known anyone so consciously spread happiness. To say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re so kind’ as much as she did,” he explained.

“I’ve never known anyone able to enjoy life as much. Her ability to be in the present and enjoy the moment was inspirational. Nor was she interested in navel-gazing. No real self-interest in self-reflection; she believed in looking out, not in. Which is why she was able to turn her light so brightly on others.”

In the statement he shared to announce McCrory’s death on Friday, Lewis shared a similar sentiment about her ability to shine “brightly”.  

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“I’m heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family,” he shared.

“She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God, we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.”

Over the last year, McCrory and Lewis made headlines for their Feed NHS project, which raised more than £1m to provide NHS workers with hot meals from high street restaurants during the peak of the pandemic.

According to her friend, Carrie Cracknell, McCrory told “very, very few people” about her diagnosis, and continued with her charity work up until weeks before her death on Friday. 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.