Michael Palin, 80, opens up on the 'great emptiness' he feels following the death of his beloved wife Helen from chronic pain and kidney failure – just weeks after their 57th anniversary

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Michael Palin has spoken out about the ‘great emptiness’ left by his beloved wife Helen following her death in May. 

The actor, 80, sadly lost his partner following a brave battle with chronic pain and kidney failure, just weeks after their 57th wedding anniversary. 

In a new heartbreaking interview, Michael revealed Helen died after she decided to give up dialysis following years of being ‘so ill and disabled’.

A grieving Michael said to The Times: ‘When someone’s gone, someone who has been so much part of your life for the past 60 years, you can’t believe they’re not there to enjoy a little joke, or an observation, or a b**** about somebody.

‘A great sort of emptiness comes in.’

Candid: Michael Palin, 80, opened up about the 'great emptiness' left by beloved wife Helen following her tragic death in May

Candid: Michael Palin, 80, opened up about the ‘great emptiness’ left by beloved wife Helen following her tragic death in May

RIP: The actor sadly lost his partner following he brave battle with chronic pain and kidney failure, just weeks after their 57th wedding anniversary (pictured together in 2015)

RIP: The actor sadly lost his partner following he brave battle with chronic pain and kidney failure, just weeks after their 57th wedding anniversary (pictured together in 2015) 

He said: ‘The last ten days of her life — I’ve never seen her happier in a way. She’d accepted it, we’d accepted it, she was in a wonderful hospice. The children and grandchildren had all come to see her, so her death was a great deliverance for her.’

According to the NHS Dialysis is a procedure to remove waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop working properly. 

Michael and Helen were childhood sweethearts. They met when they were 16, married in 1966 and shared children Thomas, 54, William, 52, and Rachel, 48, as well as four grandchildren.

Michael said he had a full circle moment when he went to Camden Registry office to register Helen’s death. 

As the actor filled out forms, he witnessed a new father holding a newborn baby close to his chest. 

Despite his grief, Michael said he thought at the time: ‘that’s it, a new person – one in, one out.’ 

Michael added: ‘We had lots of laughs together, so I’m very keen to keep humour as part of her memory. I don’t want it to be seen as a dark pit into which I have now fallen.’ 

When announcing the sad news of Helen’s death earlier this year, the Monty Python star branded his wife the ‘bedrock of my life’ and said her death was an ‘indescribable loss’ for himself and their children.

Ill health: He also shared with the publication how his wife had decided to give up dialysis after having relied on procedure to stay alive amid kidney failure (pictured together in 2005)

Ill health: He also shared with the publication how his wife had decided to give up dialysis after having relied on procedure to stay alive amid kidney failure (pictured together in 2005) 

Soulmates: Michael and Helen wed in 1966 when they were in their early 20s after a six-year relationship

Soulmates: Michael and Helen wed in 1966 when they were in their early 20s after a six-year relationship

Announcing the news on his blog, Michael shared a selfie of them together and wrote: ‘My dearest wife Helen died peacefully in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

‘She had been suffering with chronic pain for several years, which was compounded a few years ago by a diagnosis of kidney failure.

‘We first met on a summer holiday on the Suffolk coast when we were both sixteen and we married in our early twenties. Two and a half weeks ago we celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary.

‘Her death is an indescribable loss for myself, our three children and four grandchildren.

‘Helen was the bedrock of my life. Her quietly wise judgment informed all my decisions and her humour and practical good sense was was at the heart of our life together. The family ask that their privacy be respected at this time.’

Last September, Michael spoke about Helen’s ill-health as he revealed she had been moved into respite care from the home they had shared for 50 years.

He explained she had not been responding to medication for her chronic pain, saying they had moved her to help her ‘manage’ her symptoms.

During their 57-year marriage, the childhood sweethearts had three children together - Thomas, 54, William, 52, and Rachel, 48 (pictured in 1980)

During their 57-year marriage, the childhood sweethearts had three children together – Thomas, 54, William, 52, and Rachel, 48 (pictured in 1980) 

The couple (pictured in 1989) met when they were just 16 years old and marked their 57th wedding anniversary just weeks before Helen's death

The couple (pictured in 1989) met when they were just 16 years old and marked their 57th wedding anniversary just weeks before Helen’s death 

The comedian told the Telegraph at the time: ‘I don’t think you can cure it, but they will help her manage it. 

‘It’s such a bore. She was so active and still is mentally. But the body is declining. We live life with our fingers crossed.’

Michael and Helen met as teenagers when they were both on summer holidays in Southwold, Suffolk, where they were staying in neighbouring cottages with their families.

He described Helen as a ‘vision of rebellion’ when he first met her and admitted their romance quickly blossomed, according to The Telegraph.

Michael was living in Sheffield at the time while Helen was in Cambridgeshire, but the pair remained in touch by writing letters and met again the following summer.

They were then reunited on Michael’s first day at Oxford University, where Helen was visiting her friend for the weekend, with fate bringing them together once again.

Recalling the reunion, Michael said: ‘You can see fate was actually tightening the screws on us very hard at that time.’

In 2015, Michael told The Telegraph what the secret to his happy marriage with Helen was enjoying spending time together.

He added: ‘What is the really important thing in a relationship, what is the main thing? Sex, or going to the theatre, or having lots of friends, or whatever?

‘None of that matters. There’s something underneath that works – that you’re happy to be with somebody for an awful lot of the time.

‘The more time you spend together, the more things you have to share, the less likely it is that you want to throw all that away.’

Speaking about his family life to MailOnline in 2012, Michael also shared how he spent his day-to-day life with his wife.

He told how he collected stamps, drank sensibly, jogged daily on Hampstead Heath and would sooner have run up and down Oxford Street with his underpants on his head than cheat on Helen.

Gushing over his wife, he said: ‘I was lucky to find somebody early on when I was in my teens who I got on with really well and still get on with really well. It sort of works better as it goes along. You build up layers of experience.’

Speaking about his love for travel, he went on: ‘Helen’s always been really tolerant of my travels. If she said, “You’ve got to stay home”, she’d just have a frustrated man kicking chairs in the kitchen and looking at atlases.

‘So she’s always been very happy to let me go. I see no reason to rupture such an extraordinary relationship. I don’t like a life that’s edgy and uncomfortable. I’m restless in other ways – in terms of work.’

In recent years, Michael has addressed his health and recently spoke about undergoing heart surgery in 2019 amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In December 2020, Michael compared the coronavirus lockdown to a ‘huge doctor’s note’ following his operation.

He said he accepted having to remain in his home quite happily, particularly after being away while filming his show Travels of a Lifetime.

Speaking to Radio Times, he said: ‘The great surprise is that I’ve been extremely content to be in the same place for some time.

Comedy: Michael is best known for being a member of the Monty Python alongside Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman and John Cleese

Comedy: Michael is best known for being a member of the Monty Python alongside Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman and John Cleese

Acting legend: Michael is pictured on The Complete And Utter History Of Britain in 1969

Acting legend: Michael is pictured on The Complete And Utter History Of Britain in 1969

‘I had heart surgery last September and was told to have rest and recuperation – then lockdown came along. I accepted it rather happily, it’s been like a huge doctor’s note.

‘Anyway, coming home has always been the best part of the process. We live near Hampstead Heath in London and near friends.’

Michael had previously admitted how his recent heart scare reminded him that his body ‘isn’t indestructible’.

He had an operation to fix a ‘leaky mitral valve’ after he was advised by doctors to have it repaired.

He wrote in his blog: ‘My heart scare reminded me that my body isn’t indestructible and if I want to keep it that way I must know when to stop working as well as when to start again.

‘Over the last year I discovered a rather enjoyable equilibrium, a balance between work and relaxation that for the first time in my life favoured the latter.

‘After forty years I’ve given up running, and taken to long walks instead. Running was a a fierce and competitive fight with myself, justified largely by how good I felt afterwards. Walking is something to enjoy at the time.’

The mitral valve is a small flap in the heart that stops blood flowing the wrong way. If damaged, it can affect how blood flows around the body.

Michael had a condition called mitral regurgitation, when the valve doesn’t close tightly enough and blood goes the wrong way.

This puts a strain on the heart and often causes symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue, according to Harvard Medical School.

Michael is best known for being a member of the Monty Python comedy group alongside Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Terry Jones.

They rose to fame on the sketch comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus and went on to find success with the Monty Python films – including 1975’s Monty Python And The Holy Grail.




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