Hold me close: Omar Puente & the late Debbie Purdy, the greatest love story it has ever been my privilege to tell

purdyThere is one woman whose story has touched me the most in all the years I have been interviewing people; one couple whose immense love has been the greatest privilege to witness. The death of Debbie Purdy has just been announced, and the headlines are calling her a campaigner for the right to die. So she was, even unto death. But I am not thinking of that as I remember the trips to see her in Bradford.

I am thinking of her brilliant, tenacious, witty mind and her wicked laugh. I am thinking of her obvious, undying, immense love for her husband Omar Puente. I am thinking of the music he played me one afternoon upstairs in their house, the mesmerising sound he can make with his violin, the slow unwinding of a Cuban tune and the dedication to her that he showed in his music, in the expression of his soul. I have never seen such love between two adults as I saw between those two. Awesome, sacrificial, practical, tenacious, flirtatious, tender, supportive … the way love should be.

They loved to dance, and as she first became ill they did this in the only way they could: with Omar taking the steps across the dance floor and Debbie standing on his feet, being held close. As I understand it, an embassy official who had been on the verge of refusing Omar a visa to come to Britain with Debbie because he did not believe in their love happened to see them dancing in this way. The visa was granted.

I am thinking of Omar now, wishing him all the strength he needs to cope with the loss of the love of his life. Here is the first interview I did with them, for the Independent: A Matter Of Love And Death. 

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