Since the death of his 56-year-old wife, Linda, little about Paul McCartney's life has remained the same. He admits he still cries and has sought psychological counseling to help him deal with the grief of losing his wife of 29 years to breast cancer last April 17. "We fancied each other something rotten," McCartney told PEOPLE. "I always thought of her as my girlfriend."
For now the former Beatle has taken refuge in his farmhouse with children Heather. 35, from Linda's first marriage: Mary, 29; Stella, 27; and James, 21. "They make sure one is with him at all times," a friend notes. Speaking to Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, McCartney seemed astonished to be surviving. "How am I still here? How am I talking, eating? I just am."
For a man who spent just a handful of days away from his wife during almost three decades, only work seems to relieve ins despair. He tends to the animals on his farm and is finishing a series of abstract expressionist paintings for exhibition next year. "He always was a workaholic," says Miles, "but since Linda died, it's been work, work, work."
McCartney's most heartfelt labor, though, has been in the recording studio. This fall he released his second album of dance music under the pseudonym the Fireman and put the finishing touches on Linda's new CD, Wide Prairie, a collection of songs she worked on sporadically for 25 years. Linda resisted putting out an album, McCartney says, because she knew she'd be attacked for it. "She was criticized for almost anything she did," he told PEOPLE. "I don't think her critics realize how cruel they were. She was devastated by some of the things people said."
For PEOPLE, McCartney collected his favorite snapshots—some that he took himself—of Linda. On the following pages he shares his thoughts about those captured moments. "People say time heals, but I don't know about this one," says old friend Joe Flannery, who ran into McCartney recently. "I said, 'I'm sorry about Linda,' and Paul reached his right hand over and touched his left shoulder with a sad smile and said, 'She's with me all the time.' "
Peter Ames Carlin
Nina Biddle, Joanna Blonska and Ellin Stein in London
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