A Time to Die

My neighbour was found dead in his house last week. His house was cold and had been dead a week. It’s not as if anyone didn’t check on him, they did, he was a single bloke, never married, no kids but had family. He wasn’t seen for a few days and the police broke in and found him dead. I was parking the car in 6″ of snow when two of John Heath’s funeral directors came out of the house with a plain wooden stretcher with his body covered in a plain brown blanket. They put him in the back of a black transit van. His funeral is next week, my wife placed the bereavement notice from his relatives in our paper today.

Today it was even worse. I got to work, had a laugh and a joke with a colleague then Astrid tearfully told me one of our work “family” had died. I was speechless and had to suppress a lump in my throat.

A week ago, Rita one of the co-owners of our company, went to New Zealand with her husband Dave to see her daughter. They have done this every year for a few years now. Dave had a massive stroke 12 years ago and has been pretty well handicapped since then, Rita has done everything for him. Yesterday she was driving back to Rotorua when she was involved in a traffic accident. She went into a garden hit a tree which fell on the car and trapped Dave. He broke two ribs and fractured vertebrae in his neck. They rushed him to hospital with a view of keeping him in for a few days.

Today we learned that he had died from his injuries. On holiday. In New Zealand.
The mood in the office was sombre. Her son, Adrian, my mate, my boss, the co-owner told the secretary and burst into tears. I start late on Tuesday so he had gone when I arrived and never came back, which was to be expected.

Business had to go on and the remaining 8 of us got a 28 page newspaper prepared, sold £8700 of adverts, accumulated enough news, laid it out and sent it to the printer in the usual 9 hours. This was achieved in a very professional way albeit in a very subdued atmosphere. It was a natural thing to do to look after the business and a kind of tribute to the family in this awful time for them. Tomorrow 27,000 copies of our newspaper will be posted through letterboxes in the north of Sheffield and not one person will know of the abject heartache we suffered on Rita and Adrian’s behalf in each word, in each photo, in each expertly designed advert and each damn page.

What the hell must poor Rita be going through at this time? We all discussed it of course with heavy hearts. She’s 11,500 miles from home, from her son, from her grand kids and her husband is no longer alive. I’ve only been with the business a few months but I’ve been involved with Rita, Dave, Adrian and the whole company for 13 years since they gave Astrid a break when she moved from Holland jobless, they offered her a job.

Back then they were in an old converted terraced cottage next to a florist and a pub. Now we have a large open plan office space in a building vacated by the Co-op, it’s an old church school and we share the building with a sandwich shop at one side and the Pentecostal Church at the other.

On the bright side, if it’s possible today, we’ve booked the ferry to Holland in May. We normally go when the weather is cold but this time we hope to have warm rain instead of cold sleet. We’re going to Berlin for 4 nights instead of two and have a lot to see and do. I haven’t decided whether to take the car or take the train. It’s only 5 1/2 hours from Deventer to Berlin by car, same by train but I wouldn’t mind stopping in Magdeburg or an old East German village. I understand they are still many years behind the west and have been described as quiet, quaint and traditional.
Anyway, here are two photos from Berlin, both from the Roma Gypsy memorial, which is topical in that it is 70 years since the Russians found Auschwitz.





  1. So true…In the midst of life…..:roll: The way of Life….I suppose. Strange how none can adequately prepare for this all too natural and inevitable phenomenon!
    Condolences are in order, I’m sure! As you say…Life goes one….


  2. I am deeply sorry for your losses. I am so proud of you and your work colleagues for keeping everything going. It will be so important for Rita.

    The Soviet troops who liberated Auschwitz were made up mostly of Ukrainians. Hubby and I were talking about this today.

    We talk about not letting [holocaust] history repeat itself, yet it has done in The Balkans, in Screbrenica. (excuse my spelling if this is not quite right). It took war photography to energise international repulsion to it. By then, much murderous repetition had occurred.

    Have a good holiday.


    • Thanks. My sentiments entirely and the older I get the more rational, philosophical, apathetical, sentimental, cynical, radical and confused I get. But I don’t worry about it. :))


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