Memories ease pain of McCartney’s death

LONDON (AP) — Linda McCartney was branded a brash American opportunist when she landed the last bachelor Beatle 30 years ago, wreaking havoc on teen-age hearts and creating legions of instant cynics.
But, as so often happens, the passing years — and her obviously blissful union with Paul McCartney — softened the critics.
After her death from breast cancer was made public, McCartney, 56, was celebrated Monday as a vegetarianism pioneer, a savvy businesswoman, a talented photographer and a generous friend.
But it was her real-life love story with McCartney, played out over three decades in a rock ‘n’ roll world known for five-minute marriages, that seemed to resonate most.
Paul and Linda McCartney — or, as he celebrated her in one song, “lovely Linda with the lovely flowers in her hair” — raised children together, made music together, campaigned for animal rights together and, since the lump first was found in her breast in December 1995, together fought the cancer that killed her.
So bonded were they that during their many years as a couple, they only willingly spent one night apart, said McCartney’s close aide, Geoff Baker.
“He is being incredibly brave,” Baker said Monday of McCartney. “It’s almost impossible to put this into words because they were the ultimate soul mates, and throughout their married life they were like each other’s twin.”
The marriage began in a London registry office on March 12, 1969, almost two years after the couple met at the launch of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.
“Just write that the bride wore a big smile,” McCartney, already pregnant with the first of the couple’s three children, told one reporter.
Throughout their years together, they largely avoided the celebrity lifestyle and lived quietly in remote homes in southern England and Scotland, saying they wanted a normal upbringing for their children Mary, Stella and James, and Heather, Linda McCartney’s daughter from a previous marriage.
Asked not long ago how they remained so close, McCartney replied, “If people ask me what our secret is, well, it’s quite simple. Although guys are not meant to say this, I guess it’s because we just adore each other.”
And she told an interviewer that the couple had grown even closer since their children had left the house, saying, “It’s meant Paul and I have become like boyfriend and girlfriend again.
“We do those little things you do when you’re first dating … going to the theater or just walking hand in hand through the fields,” she said. “How many married couples of 30 years standing do you know who wander about holding hands?”
Paul McCartney made no secret of his admiration for his wife’s strength and continually sunny outlook, even during the darkest days of her illness.
That was echoed by former Beatle Ringo Starr, whose first wife, Maureen, died of cancer in 1995.
“Her positive courage through her illness was inspiring,” Starr said in a statement.
It was unknown Monday when McCartney’s funeral or any memorial services would be held. But Baker, the aide, said she had been cremated in the United States.
He said Paul McCartney and the couple’s children were secluded at an undisclosed location in Britain, and that the former Beatle would issue a statement later this week.
Baker said no family “could ever have been closer,” and Linda McCartney’s great friend, Carla Lane, offered a glimpse into that bond by recounting one of her conversations with McCartney after his wife’s death.
“He said to me yesterday that the whole family was terrified of him sleeping on his own after she died, so he said, ‘Jamie bunked in with me,'” Lane said.
In the song “Calico Skies” on his most recent album “Flaming Pie,” written after his wife’s cancer had been diagnosed, McCartney paid tribute to the woman who was, in every way, his life:
“I will hold you for as long as you like;
“I’ll hold you for the rest of my life.
“Always looking for ways to love you,
“Never failing to fight at your side.”
Linda McCartney died Friday while on vacation in Santa Barbara, Calif., surrounded by the man and the children she so loved.