Lynda Bellingham: a lesson in life, and death

The dying, we seem to say, should spare our feelings

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The Independent Online

We knew lovely Lynda Bellingham was leaving, she made no bones about her dying, but none of us reading the reports imagined this so soon. There she was on Loose Women last Wednesday - vociferous, bouncy, and brimming with certitude.

When Bellingham said recently that she “hoped to see this Christmas”, I felt sure she’d see next Christmas too. Life was very much still blowing through Lynda Bellingham. But then this is the effect of death’s taboo. It is unthinkable that one can burn brightly one day and vanish soon after.

By publicly announcing her proximity to death, Bellingham’s behaviour was not pioneering, but it was a ballsy reminder of how differently we tend to collude on the matter of dying. The dying, for all our sakes, are supposed to slope off. They should, it seems, retire from the public view. Then we can all say after the event: “Oh, if only we’d known! And now they are so missed. And weren’t they so brave, so stoic, so dignified to have kept it almost secret?”

The dying, we seem to say, should spare our feelings. They shouldn’t force us to think of things to say or make us remember that we will die too. The dying should do the decent thing and die before we can announce we loved them, or rail at how big the gap is without them, or hold their hands and feel them still warm.

Instead, Bellingham appeared on Loose Women in a bright-eyed, mischievous manner. “What do you want to know?” she said. Such a small event in the grand scheme of life but so utterly huge and terrifying. She comforted a weeping Colleen Nolan and left to a standing ovation. We will all die eventually, but hardly any of us as aware of how much we were loved as Lynda Bellingham.