Virginia Barton

28 December 2018: The Lucky Widow

28 December 2018


BH always said, “She’ll be a merry one!”

He meant widow of course. I rather saw myself in deep black with jet earrings and a veil. Possibly even weepers. As a matter of fact my clothes haven’t changed at all: trousers, a polo shirt and big furry jerseys – in fact similar to what BH wore in his older, relaxed years. The clean and neat nurse, with proper footwear (always loved improper footwear).

Did he think I would suddenly, aged 80, start dancing again? If only; or take up bowls at the Club? Even go to Vienna, home of the merriest of widows? He knew I disliked F Lehar as much as he disliked R Wagner. Guess which one of us yelled, “Turn that rubbish off!” and which one left the room in a huff?


I dislike the word “widow”. Dry, black and rusty; and “widower” sounds like a lawnmower. French is good with its hint of bubbles – veuve chanceuse, “lucky widow”. Lithuanian even better, gentle, melodious, – laiminga našlė means “happy widow”. Get your Lithuanian friends to pronounce it for you.

While not going so far as happy, I am most certainly lucky.

How about relict? Both legal and dignified. “The Lucky Relict.” No.


My goodness I was lucky! Here was this exotic young man, handsome and with a decent job, older than my usual escorts and with the glamour of the army (why do they say “military” nowadays?) still hanging about him. Out of all the girls, when he had the pick of dozens (of his own nationality for starters), he picked me.

I couldn’t then, and can’t now, believe my luck. His whole life from then on was devoted to my well-being, my comfort, my safety. He spoiled me rotten. Even our quarrels, and there were some corkers, were fodder for future laughs and mutual growth of a positive tree of happiness.


BH and Ginny with their granddaughters on their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 2008. 


Tomorrow, December 29th, is the first anniversary of my beloved one’s death. Mass will be celebrated for the repose of his soul, not only in my local church but in many places round the world where he was admired and loved. It’s the feast of St Thomas à Becket and the Becket rose I planted in BH’s memory is hunkered down for the winter.

He left this lucky widow with all his papers in good order, his accounts up to date, his Will as simple as possible. This paragon even named and dated his photographs! His personal wishes were arranged and mostly carried out long before he died. These concerned the disposal of his books, one or two paintings, archival material, and the precious Katyn mug.


Apart from stating that he wished to be cremated (in accordance with the dictates of the Catholic Church) and his ashes taken to Lithuania, his funeral directions were left entirely to the family. What a good idea! Everybody joined in and it gave the children something of a focus to help mitigate their grief, often overlooked. Each contributed their individual skills – to the music, flowers, Bidding Prayers, Order of Service, Memorial cards, seating plan, Reception. Cocooned in the centre of all this I felt as safe as in a cradle.

Neither was I left alone, night or day, until well after the Requiem. Suitable clothes were found, delicious food prepared and shared, and a remarkable understanding for feelings and moods. The non-stop flow of tea, toast and chocolate; visitors, ‘phone calls, cards and letters all helped pass the time and ease the weird sense of being only half a person.


This man had surrounded me with love during our long life together; a love the foolish twenty-year old often took for granted, and didn’t really deserve. He never wanted anything for himself except my love, and to give his to me. An oft repeated sentence was, “If you want it, you shall have it“. A new gizmo or box-set of CD’s.

And, “Do you still love me?” Oh yes! Yes.


Of course I miss him. Tears come in little rushes – in church often; when I hear bits of opera (not Messrs W or L) we enjoyed together; a much-thumbed copy of Eugene Onegin. Old shoes are so painful they’re best given away immediately.

Someone told me it would take a thousand days; another said a year.

But I suspect it will be forever.





  • Dr J says on: December 28, 2018 at 12:03 am


    What a privilege to have known BH and the warmth of his friendship for more than 30 years. What I miss most, apart from his affable demeanour, great sense of humour, and deft hand at the bar, is his counsel. He always gave the best — succinct — advice on the most vexing of problems.

    Ginny, you and BH were the perfect pairing, “like peas and carrots” as Forrest Gump would say. His spirit lives on in you. Rest assured of continued prayers, especially on his anniversary.

    • Ginny says on: December 28, 2018 at 1:18 am


      Thank you Dr J for pinpointing those qualities — specially the affability and deft hand at the bar! Did you not concoct a notorious cocktail together in the wastes of the North, then bring it South to startle the sobersides in Oxfordshire?

      He was always delighted to hear of the progress of his young friends of whom You were one for so many years.

      Thanks from us both, Ginny

      • Dr J says on: December 28, 2018 at 2:02 am


        Ah, yes. BH was reading Goldfinger by Ian Fleming and was inspired to create a namesake cocktail. It was dashing, delicious — and downright deadly!

        He never shared the precise measurements of the multiple ingredients, to my lasting regret.

  • Rosanne says on: December 28, 2018 at 2:12 am


    Dear Ginny,

    You have said all that needs saying, and are indeed most fortunate to have been surrounded by so much love — and to carry it forward.

    Forever sounds right to me.


    • Ginny says on: December 28, 2018 at 11:51 am


      Oh dear Rosanne, am brimming again! But in a good way. Thank you, Ginny.

  • Coal-Filled Wellies says on: December 28, 2018 at 6:39 am


    What a beautiful piece to have shared with all of us. RIP, and may God be with you, Ginny.

  • Mrs Judd says on: December 28, 2018 at 8:12 am


    I don’t think a marriage of nearly sixty years can rely on just one person feeling lucky. It sounds to me as if he was very lucky to have found YOU too, Ginny! What an amazing thing. How lovely to have so many wonderful memories.

    What did you row about!? (Sorry to be nosey).

  • Fr James says on: December 28, 2018 at 11:54 am


    Many years ago, when BH was probably in his late 50’s, I had occasion to take a young Italian seminarian (from the diocese of Milan) of my acquaintance to visit you two — he was learning English at the behest of his Dean of Theology, and I arranged for him to spend six weeks or so in Oxford with the Oratorians.

    After tea at your home, as we ascended the stairs to the street level, he turned back and said to me with some hesitation: “They are … still… in amore!

    Oh, yes indeed.

  • Anthony T says on: December 28, 2018 at 2:00 pm


    Thank you, Virginia, for your positive and heart-warming reflection on your experience of losing your husband. This will help many people who are having to cope with the death of a beloved partner — probably the most difficult and taxing of all human experiences.

    What it says to me is that love never ends and finds eternal expression in the Communion of Saints.

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