Yesterday was the strangest of days in many ways, as I was back in Bibury, scene of many childhood adventures, for the first time in many years, there to meet some of my partner’s family and to scatter some ashes. I would cycle there with a friend, back in the old days, probably aged only fourteen or fifteen, and then go on to Cheltenham, so it was a strange experience to be back.
My partner’s grandmother was laid to rest in the churchyard with her father, my partner’s great grandfather, for they had been evacuated to the village in the war and worked at the large house there. It was a day full of thoughts already, but as I switched my phone back on, walking back from the church, I received the call to tell me that my uncle had died.
This was one of those expected but unexpectedly sudden pieces of news, if that makes any sense at all. His doctors had said that he had two to three weeks left, but reports I had heard and my experience in these matters gave me the nagging feeling that it was days.
As it happened I managed to get the right messages to the right people, and later found out that they had been passed on just in time, but the events had still taken us by surprise. Seize chances while you can, and all that.
Life goes in in all its banalities, of course, and phrases such as these, banal as well, will continue to be written, but at least in the maelstrom of yesterday I can console myself that I did what little I could, managed to tell my uncle at the end that I was grateful for what he had done. Sometimes that is all we can do, and yet those little kindnesses add value, and the phrase kept coming back to me as we drove home from my childhood haunts – primum non nocere.