Lessons in Death


Our neighbour, the one of a kind John Kalinowski, died very suddenly & completely unexpectedly this week, and it has cast a real shadow.

Death is a funny thing, because we know it is the one certainty in life and yet it always seems to come as a shock and we are, for the most part, wholly unprepared for it.

I confess to feeling knocked sideways by John’s untimely departure. In part, I am broken-hearted for his wife and worry about how she will ever recover from the shock. More selfishly, I feel we have been robbed of a truly unique character- ex-manager of madness and Procol Harum, a great liver and lover of life, a man of endless positivity and boundless enthusiasm. What is remarkable to me, is that it is only with his death that I realise how much I valued his being here, and how in all the small ways- the talks over the garden wall, the crossing paths on dog walks, the borrowing tins of tomatoes when we had run out and were desperate- he was in fact, a big presence in our lives.

Community is like that. It provides a framework of small encounters that then make up the fabric of our lives. We know that immediate family are important; our children, our partners, our parents and we might actively cherish our close friendships. But it is actually the other people; the neighbours, our babysitters, the couple who run the local shop or the flower seller at the weekly market who calls you ‘love’ and looks delighted to see you- it is these people that inform your every day and stop the world from being the anonymous place that it is sometimes accused of. It was these relationships I moved to the country for and it is them, as much or perhaps even more than anyone else, that sustain me day to day. I often lament, in that kind of broad brush way, the loss of community in the world and the loneliness we all often feel because of it, and yet I have a very real community here, one that I wasn’t even properly aware of, and one that now has a very big hole in it.

As my eight year old son, Marcus, said rather movingly on the day he found out about John’s death ‘We have lost a friend today, mummy’. Indeed we have. And he was a dearer friend than I had ever really contemplated.


“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”― Mae West


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