When the Managing Director of Unislim rocks-up to The Ryan Tubridy Show studio with a new cook book, you might expect a carb-free chat filled with calorie counting, power-walking and low-fat snack hacks. Not so. Fiona Gratzer ’s story is all about love, loss and most importantly, living.
Like something straight out of a Marian Keyes novel or a pacey romcom, Fiona tells the story of how she met and married “tall, blonde, god-like looking” Austrian Uwe Gratzer. Shortly after meeting and enjoying a holiday romance in Malaysia, the couple went their separate ways. In a pre-social media age, no addresses or phone numbers were exchanged. The one piece of information Uwe had was that at some point in the next few months, Fiona would be staying with her cousin Paul Quinn in Sydney.
“One day the telephone rang in the house we were staying in, in Paddington, Sydney. I picked up the phone and… Uwe had tracked me down. He told me he rang all the Quinns in Sydney looking for me.”
Fiona went on to tell Ryan of the whirlwind romance that followed, culminating in the engaged couple’s arrival into Dublin Bay on St. Patrick’s Day 1991. They settled into life in Ireland and a few years later started a family. So far, so fairytale.
Then, one summer’s day four years ago, Uwe went for a ride on his motorbike. Around 90 minutes later Fiona answered the door to two Gardaí telling her he had been in a serious accident. Uwe died that afternoon with Fiona by his side.
Unsurprisingly, the love the couple shared endures beyond this tragic loss. Fiona continues to feel close to her husband and talks to him regularly.
“I call him ‘The Uwenator’ when I need his strength… I speak to him a lot, we talk about him, I think it’s really important when somebody dies… that you’re allowed to speak their name constantly, that they’re always around you and you feel their presence.”
Dealing with her grief, Fiona fell back on the tried and tested ‘Unislim rituals’, as she calls them, that had served her well in the past.
“I keep myself healthy, I eat really well which is so important because you can forget to eat when you’re going through sadness or you can overeat… so healthy eating is really important… and of course exercising.”
Bereft though she was – and is – at the loss of her husband, Fiona has an acute awareness of the fragility of life and the positive impact Uwe had on so many in his short life. This fuels her desire to cultivate a positive legacy every day that she’s lucky enough to be alive.
“Life is so precious… if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, am I leaving behind harmony at home, am I leaving behind great relationships at work, am I leaving behind happiness with everybody I touch and encounter or am I leaving behind negativity? And who wants to leave behind that?”
Currently in the middle of renovating the home she shared with Uwe, Fiona is mastering the art of moving forward with life while keeping the things from her past that anchor her, rather than hold her back.
“It’s been cathartic, it’s been difficult to do… Yes there’s been a lot of stuff that I’ve decided to give away, but there are many things I will keep forever. It’s a new beginning, you can’t live in the past.”
You can listen to Ryan and Fiona’s conversation in full here.
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