“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it,” says author Joan Didion in her award-winning book “A Year of Magical Thinking,” a memoir following the death of her husband. “We anticipate that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death.”
She adds: “We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind.”
This obliterative and dislocating shock must have been what Paula Shepherd felt when she saw her husband laying on the floor, dead.
Paula and her husband Raymond had been married for over forty years. They so loved each other that Paula could not bear imagine the future without him.
So she waited for death to arrive beside her husband.
Their real estate agent Suzanne Ashman found their bodies when she visited their home after they failed to answer any correspondence over the sale of their home.
The couple’s daughter Alison White had also dropped by the house for a visit, but because her parents were often on a holiday, she thought nothing was amiss.
Basil Purdue, consultant pathologist, said: “It isn’t clear why she didn’t summon help, but the imminent house move and the sudden realization of losing her partner may have rendered her seriously confused which would account for her actions.”
“It may be she despaired and chose to lay by her husband, having a final seizure, and she may have given up the will to live,” he added.
The couple’s daughter agrees with the consultant pathologist’s statement. “[Mum] always took the back seat and dad was her anchor,” she said.
“Her world had collapsed totally without him,” said coroner David Horsley. “They had been together a long time and I think she couldn’t see a future without him.
“I’m satisfied her death, like his, is due to natural causes. We can’t imagine what went on in the time between the deaths and it’s such a tragedy.”
This is a story of tragic proportions, and yet we can’t help but appreciate such love Paula had for her husband that she was willing to die with him.
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