J.G. Ballard's autobiography, Miracles of Life, is published by Fourth Estate.

Like a survivor at sea, clinging on

In 1963 my wife Mary was in good health, but needed her appendix removed. She recovered slowly from the operation at Ashford Hospital, and perhaps her resistance was affected, or some infection lingered. She was keen to go on holiday, and the following summer we drove to a rented flat at San Juan, near Alicante. For a month all went well, and we enjoyed ourselves in the bars and beach restaurants. It was the kind of holiday where the high point is the day Daddy fell off the pedalo. But Mary suddenly became ill with an infection, and this rapidly turned into severe pneumonia. Despite the local doctor, a male nurse (the practicante) who was with her constantly, and a consultant from Alicante, she died three days later. Towards the end, when she could barely breathe, she held my hand and asked: "Am I dying?" I'm not sure if she could hear me, but I shouted that I loved her until the end. In the final seconds, when her eyes were fixed, the doctor massaged her chest, forcing the blood into her brain. Her eyes swivelled and stared at me, as if seeing me for the first time.

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