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“I am no Pollyanna. But I want to say something about grief, and it is this. Grief is an acute state of awareness in which the fragility of the world reveals itself. And so does kindness. The hypervigilance of being near someone who is dying makes one more viscerally attuned to all the small, insignificant connective tissues.
Someone who chats to you in a bookshop, the person who runs after a pushchair when a child has dropped a toy, the simple reassurances of medical staff, the silliness of old, old friends. The giving up of a seat on a bus, the small talk about the never-ending rain at a station. A friend dropping in to give me some very good cheese and not needing to chat.
One grasps at these encounters as the very stuff of being. One may try to work out what it all means and why, and others will doubtless tell you, but it is the people who don’t tell you who one finds comfort with. For they turn out to be most people who have lost someone dear and know straightforwardly that loss is not filled by explanations of personal philosophy or drippy metaphysics. Loss is merely helped by the presence of others and the lighting of candles and the replaying of music and anything else that gets one through the day, never mind the night.
We are cautious around the bereaved, as though pain is contagious, as though keeping a distance will make the loss smaller. Yet again, I find the opposite to be true – the nearness of things, the nearness of others, is really all that matters for now. We move from numbness to the littleness of the everyday, knowing that this is life going on, that no grand gestures are needed, that compassion is in a nod, a wave, a smile, all the gentle tokens. I count my blessings.”
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