A couple of months ago, I found out that someone I went to college with had become terminally ill. I hadn’t been in touch with her much over the years but I liked and respected her. She was a little younger than I am and had been very healthy until the cancer. The fact that she had a young family made the situation even sadder.

Since then, mortality or rather the unpredictability and inherent fragility of life has been in the back of my mind and prone to surfacing unexpectedly. I guess it is a predictable reaction due to my age and a number of other factors: the ageing of parents and relatives, my own health hitting middle-aged bumps, the onset of greying.

But regardless of the sources, the outcome has been that an intellectual prospect has abruptly become a felt reality: I will die, hopefully not soon but inevitably; worse, people whom I hold dear will die too. With this in mind, I’ve begun viewing older people especially those in their seventies with greater respect and a certain amount of anxiety. The fact of their survival is also the fact that they have survived many of their friends and family.

The loss of one person has been difficult, how does one even begin to cope with the loss of more? How can the last years of one’s life not be filled with the memories and absences of the lost?

I have no answer to the first question and I doubt that there is any other than the obvious to the second. So, to my friend who left much too soon, I can only write this: you were the first to leave and hence will be remembered and missed the longest.

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