The Billions star, 50, honored McCrory — who was best known for her roles as Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films and Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders— in an emotional tribute written for The Sunday Times, in which he reflected on his “brilliant” wife’s life.
“Many people have spoken about her career and many more will, so that’s where I’ll leave it, because it strikes me that two things are happening this weekend: an outpouring of grief and shock, and a celebration of Helen McCrory the actress from fans everywhere, and of Helen the person,” Lewis said of the actress. “And that’s who I want to talk about.”
“Helen was an even more brilliant person than she was an actress,” the actor continued. “She was a people person, sure. ‘I’m much more interested in who I’m with than where I am,’ she would say, and innately wanted to share. But she also lived by the principle of kindness and generosity. That you put these things out into the world to make it better, to make people feel better.”
Lewis went on to speak on how McCrory always “spread happiness,” writing, “Even when dying in her last few days, when talking to our wonderful carers, she repeatedly said, ‘thank you so much’ in her half delirious state.”
Mike Marsland/WireImage Helen McCrory, Damian Lewis
“I’ve never known anyone able to enjoy life as much,” Lewis said. “Her ability to be in the present and enjoy the moment was inspirational. Nor was she interested in navel-gazing. No real interest in self- reflection; she believed in looking out, not in. Which is why she was able to turn her light so brightly on others.”
Lewis, who married McCrory in 2007 after they met on the production of Five Gold Rings at London’s Almeida Theatre in 2003, said the late actress has left their two children — daughter Manon, 14, and son Gulliver, 13 — “too early, but they have been prepared for life.”
“They have in them the fearlessness, wit, curiosity, talent and beauty of their mother. She has exhorted us to be courageous and not afraid,” Lewis said.
He also wrote in the tribute of McCrory: “She has been utterly heroic in her illness. Funny, of course — generous, brave, uncomplaining, constantly reminding us all of how lucky we’ve been, how blessed we are. Her generosity has extended to encouraging us three to live. Live fully, take opportunities, have adventures.”
Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.
Dave Benett/Getty Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory
“Already I miss her,” said Lewis. “She has shone more brightly in the last months than you would imagine even the brightest star could shine. In life, too, we had to rise to meet her. But her greatest and most exquisite act of bravery and generosity has been to ‘normalise’ her death. She’s shown no fear, no bitterness, no self-pity, only armed us with the courage to go on and insisted that no one be sad, because she is happy.”
“I’m staggered by her,” he added of McCrory. “She’s been a meteor in our life.”
Lewis announced McCrory’s death on Friday. “I’m heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family,” he said on Twitter.
“She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives,” Lewis continued. “She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.”