David Attenborough’s heartbreaking account of wifes death: Now I was lost

David Attenborough delivers speech at COP26

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The British naturalist yesterday urged world’s leaders to “turn tragedy into triumph” and tackle climate change at the COP26 summit. Sir David enjoyed a standing ovation after he told delegates the fate of future generations was in their hands, and urged them “to rewrite history”. The 95-year-old also warned the summit, which is taking place in Glasgow, that humanity is “already in trouble” because of rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

The COP26 conference has been billed as crucial in limiting the effects of global warming and is being attended by more than 120 world leaders.

Mr Attenborough, who spoke for seven minutes at the conference, is one of the world’s most respected naturalists and broadcasters. 

Famed for his nature documentaries, in which he roams the world giving a comprehensive insight into animal and plant life on earth, Sir David has cemented himself as a national treasure. 

While most of the focus has been on his conservationist work and flagship nature programmes, Mr Attenborough has on occasion revealed aspects of his personal life.

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In his 2010 memoir ‘Life on Air’, the broadcaster gave an insight into his life behind the camera, and delivered a heartbreaking account of his wife Jane’s passing.

In 1997, Mr Attenborough travelled to New Zealand to film BBC documentary ‘The Life of the Birds’, but while he was away, he received the news that Jane had collapsed.

Aged 70, she had suffered a brain haemorrhage, and naturally Mr Attenborough flew home to be by her side.

He thankfully arrived just before Jane died, and gave a devastating account of his wife’s final moments while she was in a coma.

Wondering if Jane would respond if he held her hand, he wrote: ”She did, and gave my hand a squeeze.

“The focus of my life, the anchor, had gone. Now I was lost.”

Sir David and Jane married in 1950 when they were just 24 and 23 respectively, and moved into a home together in Richmond Upon Thames in London.

The couple went on to have two children, Robert and Susan, who are now both in their fifties and have lived a private life away from the spotlight.

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In 2009, Mr Attenborough revealed he still lived in the same home he had raised his children in with Jane, and that it was “all bound up with her”.

He told the Daily Mail: “The house is all bound up with her. 

“I feel her here as much as anywhere. 

“The thing is, when you go around the house, you know that, no matter how many doors you open, there is not going to be anybody there, and that’s a pity.”

After Jane’s death, the broadcaster also explained that returning to work helped him deal with his grief. 

He said: “I was in the middle of a series when my wife died. 

“I took time off of course, but there was an obligation there. There were things to do. 

“What is important is that there are people around who say to you, ‘look, we desperately need you, you know. 

“‘We do desperately want you to write that script. Could you possibly do that?’

“It’s a great relief when there is somebody driving you to get on with things.”

Life On Air was written by David Attenborough and published by BBC Books. You can find it here.

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