Lewis announced on Twitter on Friday that the British actress – known for roles in hit TV series and films including Peaky Blinders and Harry Potter – had died at home after a “heroic battle” with cancer.
He has now penned a stunning article, written for The Sunday Times, celebrating “Helen the person” which has floored readers and moved several to tears, with one writing: “This completely stopped me in my tracks.”
In the article, Lewis, also an actor who has starred in series such as Band of Brothers and Homeland, describes how his wife – who he said was nicknamed by many as “Dame Helen” and whom he described as “a meteor in our life” – “lived by the principle of kindness and generosity”.
“I’ve never known anyone so consciously spread happiness,” he writes. “Some people believe happiness is a right, some people find happiness difficult. It’s an elusive emotion. Helen believed you choose happiness.”
He goes on to praise McCrory’s zest for life, saying he had “never known anyone able to enjoy life as much”. “Her ability to be in the present and enjoy the moment was inspirational,” he writes.
Lewis, who has two sons with McCrory, added that McCrory’s “most exquisite act of bravery and generosity” had been to “normalise” her death.
“She has been utterly heroic in her illness. Funny, of course — generous, brave, uncomplaining, constantly reminding us all of how lucky we’ve been, how blessed we are,” he wrote,
“She’s shown no fear, no bitterness, no self-pity, only armed us with the courage to go on and insisted that no one be sad, because she is happy.”
He said that in the weeks before her death his wife had joked about his future relationships with women, saying that “love isn’t possessive”.
“She said to us from her bed, ‘I want Daddy to have girlfriends, lots of them, you must all love again, love isn’t possessive, but you know, Damian, try at least to get though the funeral without snogging someone’,” he said.
The article was shared widely online, with readers sharing their reactions on Twitter.
Here’s what people have said:
What a tribute. What a dame.
Damian Lewis on his wife Helen McCrory: ‘I’ve never known anyone able to enjoy life a… https://t.co/UWFwrCFTSR
McCrory was born in Paddington, London, to a Welsh mother and Scottish father, and was the eldest of three children.
She attended school in Hertfordshire, then spent a year living in Italy, before returning to London to study acting at the Drama Centre.
She has been a regular figure in prestige TV dramas, including the ITV hit Quiz, the BBC political series Roadkill, psychological thriller MotherFatherSon and the adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. She was made an OBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to drama.
A number of high-profile names paid tribute to McCrory after her death.
Cillian Murphy, who plays Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders, said: “Helen was a beautiful, caring, funny, compassionate human being. She was also a gifted actor – fearless and magnificent. She elevated and made humane every scene, every character she played.
“It was a privilege to have worked with this brilliant woman, to have shared so many laughs over the years. I will dearly miss my pal. My love and thoughts are with Damian and her family.”
Sam Neill, who also starred in Peaky Blinders, tweeted: “That brilliant woman – the greatest of actors. I so loved our time on #PeakyBlinders. She was witty, kind, skilled. Riotously funny.. and so damn cool. So young. Heartbroken for Damien + her family.”
Actor Michael Sheen, who worked with McCrory on ITV drama Quiz, wrote: “So funny, so passionate, so smart and one of the greatest actors of our time,” he tweeted. From the first moment I met her when we were just kids it was obvious she was very special.
“It was an honour to work with her and know her. Much love to Damian and her family. Heartbreaking.”
Bafta said on its official Twitter page: “As well as fearless Polly Gray in Bafta-winning Peaky Blinders, she was in 2007 Best Film Bafta winner The Queen, amongst many other films and TV shows.”