Whenever I see an email with the subject line "sad news", I steel myself for the worst. Invariably someone has died and often it is someone I have known quite well. But at least I have been alerted to the contents and can read the message when I feel up to it.
It makes me wish the retirement home had a way of alerting visitors, in a general way, to recent deaths. Perhaps a notice on the door (Sad News for Nancy) would prepare us before we read the specifics posted on a notice board: We are saddened by the loss of of our friend xxxxxxxxx
Yesterday I came suddenly upon two such announcements. Two in one day, and I knew both men. The first was my kids' pediatrician, a sweet man who looked after both my girls when they were toddlers. In the retirement home, I had been taking him murder mysteries and when we first visited, I filled him in on our shared history and told him how important he was to our family.
The second fellow was married to one of my retirement home readers and lived in a room nearby. He had not been well for some time, so his death was not unexpected and was in many respects a blessing for him and his family. Nevertheless I feel very sad for his wife, a lovely intelligent woman whom I have gotten to know through my volunteering. I had a little visit with her yesterday, and she was philosopical about her loss. She gave a what-can-you-expect-shrug and pointed out that on their floor "someone dies every day".
I wonder if staff ever become accustomed to these deaths. I suppose they must. I am reminded of the friend who gave my 4-year old a goldfish and bowl as a birthday present. When I protested that it would only die, she nodded sagely and told me that it was never too early to learn about loss.
Or too old, it would seem. Yesterday's experience reminds me that my education will be continuing even though I am only the volunteer librarian. Just as well that I am prepared...