The well-meaning cliché “Time will heal” is proven wrong by the heartbroken, and Liam Neeson has said that he is far from over the loss of his wife in a skiing accident five years ago. Looking wan, tired and sad, the Irish actor told CBS that once he knew she was brain-dead, he felt he had to honor their pact. The couple had promised each other that if either got “into a vegetative state” then they would “pull the plug.” By donating three of her vital organs, she is still helping keep three people alive, and he took some solace from that, as she would have done.
Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson were married in 1994 and had two sons together. The star of Schindler’s List, Taken, and many other cult films, he said he had still not come to terms with the fact her death is real; he thought perhaps he never would. Natasha was only 45 years old when she passed away. Liam told the interviewer that he still hears the door opening in their New York apartment and hoped it was her. He still thinks he is going to hear her.
Natasha was skiing with the two boys on a nursery slope in Quebec in March 2009 when she fell and hit her head. At first she thought nothing of it, and went back to the hotel room. After a couple of hours she had a terrible headache and called for an ambulance. She was taken to hospital in Montreal where an epidural hematoma was detected and she was shortly after found to be brain-dead. Liam Neeson, who had been filming nearby in Toronto, flew his wife back to New York to allow her close family and friends to bid her farewell and after two days, she was taken off life support.
Natasha came from the British acting dynasty the Redgraves. Her mother, Vanessa, and her father, director Tony Richardson are also active in the industry still. Sister Joely is also an actress, known for her part in Nip/Tuck. Natasha Richardson was a powerful stage presence and also appeared in many films, perhaps most notably The Parent Trap, but also Nell, where she first worked with her husband-to-be, A Month in the Country and Patty Hearst.
The power of grief was eloquently described by the Irishman, who spoke of it hitting, like a wave and then, “you just get this profound feeling of instability.” The episodes had become more infrequent, but he still experienced them. Among his last words to his wife he said, “Sweetie, you’re not coming back from this, you’ve banged your head.”
Neeson was talking to Anderson Cooper in an interview that will be broadcast on 60 Minutes at 7 pm Eastern Time. The cameras followed him back to his home town of Ballymena, where he grew up, to record the frank exchange. Ballymena is in Northern Ireland, and was the scene of much sectarian violence in the actor’s formative years. Despite being raised in an atmosphere of fear and threat, he admitted that at 61, he felt a “wee bit embarrassed” to still be playing action heroes. His new film Non Stop is to be released next week.
Despite his career continuing to prosper, Liam Neeson, five years after his wife’s death, still finds his grief is neverending.
By Kate Henderson