A sad day!

I do not know whether it is just a natural consequence of getting older or whether it is because the internet and modern communications allow us to stay in touch with people with whom we might otherwise have lost contact, but I find that an extraordinary number of my friends are dying. Today I received news that two of them lost their respective battles, bringing to six the number of friends I have lost this year.

I suppose it begs the question, who does one consider a friend? All 6 lived far away and none of them had I seen very recently except for Robin, who died this morning, I saw him last when I was in Zimbabwe in May. He was terminally ill then and I was able to say goodbye to him, for which opportunity I am very grateful.

Andras died yesterday. He had had a massive stroke a couple of days ago and his partner had told me that there was no hope. I last saw him in Budapest in 2005 and sometimes spoke to him on Skype, though regretfully not recently.

Both men were much older and of my parents’ generation and so their deaths should not be surprising. But they were both important in my life and had been since I was a child and it is always sad to lose such people.

Ellen and James were a married couple and former work colleagues of mine who I had not seen for about 5 years. They lived in Savannah, Georgia. Ellen called me one evening, several months ago to say that she was going into hospital for some check ups. She just wanted to let me know. We chatted and laughed about old times. Afterwards I spoke to James who told me that he thought that she would be fine. Two days later I got the news that she had died in hospital. A week later, I was told that James too had died. I knew he had a bad heart and I can only imagine that it gave out when his wife died.

Denis was a school friend. Earlier this year there had been an on-line reunion for about 50 of us who had left the same year. He had participated with his share of anecdotes and news. A few days later we were told that he had died of pneumonia, following chemotherapy.

Peter was the son of my cousin and only 25. He was in the British army and suddenly dropped dead after a training exercise. We had only been chatting on Facebook a week or two earlier.

While in England last month I went to visit some friends for lunch. David picked me up at the station and when I asked how he was he told me in a rather matter of fact tone that he was dying of cancer.

When one considers how many family, friends and acquaintances we have, it is probably not surprising that so many of them die each year. But it starts to make one feel numb, all the sad news one keeps receiving. I am getting slightly alarmed that I am in danger of becoming callous. The news ceases to shock and I dread sounding too trite when I express my condolences to the families concerned. In the days before modern communications and easy travel, one probably had far fewer friends and one tended to lose touch with those who moved away. If one is told that so-and-so who used to live next door, died 10 years ago, one is not too taken aback. But when one is told that they died this morning, it becomes far more immediate. The internet allows word to spread so quickly. Given the fact that I am somewhat past my prime, I imagine that the rate of deaths amongst my circle of friends is only going to accelerate. Unless I go first.

8 thoughts on “A sad day!”

  1. I have been to four funerals this year, myself, Sipu – something I dread doing, but noblesse oblige. Twenty years ago I was given three years to live, so you can tell how scared the thought makes me.

  2. Good evening, Sipu – I have this pet theory that the increasing frequency of funerals is Nature’s way of reminding us of our own mortality and preparing us for the inevitable.

    A six-form colleague of mine was killed in a motorbike crash at the age of seventeen. It did not honestly mean much and there was certainly none of the ‘He was a star of the school, a most popular student’ bullshine you hear today whenever any young person dies, nor did we receive ‘counselling’ which is probably counter-productive anyway. There was just a dignified funeral and we all went straight back to lessons afterwards. What is personally disturbing now is that this event took place forty years ago.

    In the interim I have lost various relatives, grandparents, great aunts and great uncles and aunts and uncles, although all my immediate family and all the cousins are still hale and hearty. None of these losses were anything other than unexpected, truth be known, but what did shock me was the death of my accountant, a man of my own exact age whom I had known sice we were schoolboys in shorts. He was found dead in bed one morning a couple of years ago, the victim of a massive heart attack.

    I now live each day as it comes, making the most of the remaining years…months…weeks….hours? Who knows?


  3. Hi Sipu and glad to see you made it safe home.

    Mrs M. and I are on the plateau at the moment. Still got most of the friends that we made in those golden early-20 years when we were adult enough to know what we were and who we liked. Sadly, lost a few along the way to illness or accident but actuarial tables are now on the survivors’ side for ten years at least

    Relative-wise, unable to look upwards any more except for one sister, one aunt, one uncle and three cousins, They are all in good health to the best of my knowledge.

    Still not easy to accept that, all too soon, we’ll be peering over the edge of the abyss. Not happy to go first but definitely, and completely selfishly, don’t want to be last.

    Thanks for the post. Made me think and that’s always a joy, in my opinion.

    Did you visit the Cinqueterre? One of my unfulfilled ambitions but I’ll go there some day.

  4. One of the disadvantages of researching my family history has been the huge number of death certificates I now own – probably around 400 or so. It didn’t worry me too much when I started the research some thirty years go, but now it impinges on me that many died at my age or younger. It’s a sobering thought that some one will be collecting mine at some point in the now-not-so-distant-future.

    Here’s to OZ’s way of dealing with it!

  5. Thank you for your comments and sorry for not replying last night, I was, as Christina suggested, opening bottles. I am not given to excessive sentimentality, and certainly was not seeking sympathy. I have no fear of my own mortality, although that may well come when I start to fall apart. However, I was interested in finding out whether others feel that a disproportionate number of people in their lives are dying and whether they feel that has something to do with the number of people we know and the speed at which the news of their demise spreads.

    Re actuarial tables, when my ex school mates and I discussed the mortality of our own year, it was pointed out that the death rate was way above average. I guess that means the rest of us should live longer.

    JM, thank you, I had an excellent time in Italy. I did not make it to Cinque Terre itself, but went to Lerici which was very beautiful and slightly more accessible. I will write a blog.

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