Yesterday's happy event has been followed today by a sad thing. Tragedy is never far away.
No, nothing to do with my family. A neighbour, a nice man, has lost his wife suddenly. I was speaking with him this afternoon. He is in his late forties or early fifties I should think, and works shifts. So he has to get to bed early in order to rise early. A couple of nights ago he went to bed as usual, leaving his wife alone to come to bed later. She never did. She had a very bad asthma attack while he was sound asleep. When he awoke at the normal time he had the shock of finding her still downstairs. You can imagine how he feels.
I must say, he was showing character. Visibly upset, but coping. It couldn't have helped when my own eyes started to water a bit as he was telling me what had happened. I haven't forgotten how I felt when I learned that Dad had died alone late at night, on 25 May 2009. I didn't enquire, but his wife might have died on exactly the same date.
What does one say? The right words came, but inside I felt awkward and remiss because there was literally nothing useful I could do, not with my departure as early as possible tomorrow. I shall miss the funeral, too. (We stick together in my road: we always attend neighbours' funerals if we can)
As I said, he was upset, but not stricken. He was still going to work, on the basis that working normally was better than brooding at home. His colleagues were being sensitive and supportive. But he wondered how it would be once the immediate things that must be dealt with and arranged were done, and he was sitting at home alone. I suggested the obvious: one or two projects that required close attention to detail, and lots and lots of time. He smiled at that. Yes, he'd already thought of a sports car rebuild.
We left it there. I don't think he'll go under. There are several other neighbours who will cluster around and make sure he doesn't feel abandoned or bereft of positive empathy.
All this makes my village, or at least my part of it, sound like a really great place to live. I suppose it is. But wherever you are, the name of the game is helping each other in a crisis, and not ignoring distress when you hear of it. Nobody is immune from life's hard knocks, and if something bad happens I certainly feel that a warm and sincere response is called for, even if it's 'only' a neighbour.
Family, friend or neighbour: why should it matter which?