"Californication" actress Natascha McElhone was pregnant with her third baby when her husband, plastic surgeon Martin Kelly died.
British actress Natascha McElhone was in Los Angeles filming the hit series "Californication" in which she played David Duchovny's longtime girlfriend Karen when she received a phone call that would change her life.
The mother-of-two was four months pregnant when a friend called to break the news that her husband of ten years, Dr. Martin Hirigoyen Kelly, had passed away unexpectedly from a heart condition.
Natascha McElhone in 2014, in London | Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Southbank Centre, Natascha McElhone (13034107645) (cropped), CC BY 2.0
FATEFUL PHONE CALL
McElhone was alone when she received the call telling her that "they did everything they could" but that her 43-year-old husband had collapsed and died due to an undiagnosed cardiomyopathy. McElhone revealed:
"I did that thing I thought people only did in movies. I dropped the phone and my knees buckled under me."
Natascha McElhone and husband Martin Hirigoyen Kelly attend the afterparty following on September 23, 2004 in London. | Source: Getty Images
Kelly was a specialist in craniofacial surgery and had worked with Doctors Without Borders, operating on Afghan children disfigured by the war. Kelly and a fellow surgeon founded Facing the World, operating on children with facial deformities.
But Kelly's interests were not limited to surgery and medicine. He was an avid tennis player and a gifted composer and musician who played the bass guitar and drums.
McElhone had met her husband at the age of 16 and been in love with him ever since.
Years later, McElhone would count his sudden death a blessing, revealing that her husband would never have coped with seeing his life or work reduced by infirmity.
McElhone had to break the news to her two children, Theodore, then eight, and Otis, then five. And she had her third, as yet unborn child to think of—the actress coped by writing heartbroken letters to her husband.
The moving letters would later become a book, "After You: Letters of Love, and Loss, to a Husband and Father." McElhone described her letters as her way of keeping her husband alive.
The "Designated Survivor" actress wrote to him as if he were away and they were living a long-distance relationship. McElhone wrote about the small details of her day, the children's tiny triumphs, and how much she missed him.
GIVING BIRTH ALONE
Then, six months after Kelly's death, McElhone went into labor and gave birth to their third child, son Rex, a little boy who would never meet his father. Rex's birth offered the bereaved family a new focus, and he quickly became his brothers' pet.
As for McElhone, she was back at work just weeks after Kelly's passing, aware that she was now the family's only breadwinner. After starring in "The Truman Show" and "Solaris," the actress focused on steady work.
Today, McElhone's sons Theo and Otis are 20 and 17 respectively, and Rex is 12, and according to mom, all brilliant like their father. The actress has learned to move on from her grief, but Kelly is and will always be a part of her life.
Opposite the family's house in London is the cemetery in which Kelly was buried. From her window, Natascha McElhone can see Kelly's grave, a sight that soothes and comforts her.