I am one of the fortunate people that has managed to arrive to middle age and I have personally witnessed very little death.
In the natural order of things I know this will change but other than giving my heart a little squeeze when thinking of my parents passing on I don't put too much time or energy into thinking about it. One never knows what can happen or when and worrying about it will do nothing to prevent it.
So when I found out last night that one of my neighbours passed away I was shocked. This is not someone I know beyond passing an occasional fresh cut peony too and exchanging weather pleasantries but he was a fixture during my time in this house which is now almost eight and a half years. I don't even know his name but since his daughter lived in their basement I always thought of him as C's dad. His daughter is of my age and we have chatted a lot over the time I've lived here. Her mother, the new widow, has limited english and my chats with her are also limited to pleasantries.
I first became aware of this man when the ambulance and fire trucks showed up in the middle of the night within the first couple of years of me living here. When I asked the daughter what had happened in the days following I found out that this man had had a heart attack. I found out about his expected convalescence period and his intent to return to work as soon as possible.
Sure enough, in the proceeding months, I saw him shuffling off to work each morning and returning at night. The man worked long hours and the only thing that seemed to have changed was that he had acquired a cane and he had lost a fair bit of weight on his already slight frame.
Within a short period of this heart attack, he had another. Ambulances and firetrucks again. Discussions with C. told me that there was a longer hospital convalescence this time yet he was again planning on returning to work even though this time she didn't seem so eager about this plan. At that time I was shocked he had survived another one since he no longer looked as strong as he had when I first moved to this house.
As far as I was aware, this was his last heart attack and until last Friday night I saw him shuffle back and forth to work and we would exchange the usual pleasantries. A few months ago I saw him on his way home near the main intersection from our street and he was smoking. I was shocked, since I know he had quit years earlier, but immediately my ex-smoker empathy kicked in. I've joked with friends that I just might pick up the smokes again in my senior years.
I admired this man and his strength. It turns out that his fatal heart attack this past Saturday night was his fourth. He was 75 years of age and worked until the day before he died.
I will miss seeing him shuffling up and down the road and sitting out on his front porch with his wife and daughter. I hope that as I age I might manifest some of the strength and courage he portrayed. I also selfishly hope that my own death and the death of my loved ones goes as quickly as this man.