herald

Monday 25 September 2017

Sinead Ryan: A kind and thoughtful act among the women gerry loved

"My love is dead," said a heartbroken Melanie Verwoerd after she was asked how she was feeling this week. Morah, presumably, feels exactly the same. How could she not, after 26 years of marriage and five children?

This then, is the dilemma faced at the saddest of times by what we have come to know as 'blended' families today. Gerry Ryan was loved by two women and he loved both of them.

It is a sign of maturity and dignity that his partner of the final two years of his life, and with whom he was happy, will be allowed to wake him, attend his funeral and grieve with his children. Her own, of course, are grieving too. They have lost an important figure in their lives.

What's right doesn't always happen though, and it's very often within the gift of the legal wife to make the determination on whether, and when, a subsequent partner may pay their respects or have any involvement in their husband's death, irrespective of their role in his life.

She doesn't have to allow this, and how sad for a lover who is left out in the cold, unable to say goodbye, give a final kiss, or touch of his hair or gently go through their man's possessions, photographs and personal things with which they were so intimate. Instead they're told to stay away, don't come near, he's back with his 'real' family now.

We've come a long way in Ireland and 'marriage' is no longer the rock upon which the country is built. Although that detestable word 'partner' has become ubiquitous, we don't always approve that someone else can become just as close to their new love as the old. We can be very judgmental on these sorts of things, and make decisions based on what we want, rather than what our loved one would have wanted. It's selfish, but understandable.

Who is to say where Gerry and Melanie's relationship might have gone in the future?

That they were still together at his death speaks of a plan, sustainability and commitment. Her children and his mixed freely, by all accounts. It was, as we say, 'going somewhere'.

So it is right and fitting that she should be there for his final, premature goodbye. He is, after all, saying it to her as well as to everyone else. And if we, the public, who never met him and didn't know him, feel we have a right to attend and intrude on this privacy, then so does she.

It was a kind and thoughtful decision by Gerry's family. It will be one which echoes Gerry's legendary generosity of spirit and shows that he did indeed love two wonderful women. He was a lucky man.

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