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The passing of friends - and time

"Our friends - how distant, how mute, how seldom visited and little known. And I, too, am dim to my friends and unknown; a phantom, sometimes seen, often not. Life is a dream surely." Virginia Woolf

The lovely man in the photograph here, our friend Bernie, shown here with his wife Clare, died last week. He was a few days short of his ninetieth birthday I think, and did not look so very different from this photograph here which was taken way back in 2002. His mind was still as alert, amusing and absolutely with it, although, being old, the body had faded. Well actually not much in appearance, but health wise, being the age that he was, of course it had. Let's say his death was due to complications associated with diabetes, although I think it was more complicated than that, but relatively 'peaceful'. I imagine that we can never know what 'peaceful' in the context of death means, until it happens to us. In some ways so much worse for those left behind - his wife Clare in particular.

Bernie belongs in that group of friends that we all have, known for a very long time, never a really close friend, but someone whom it was always a pleasure to see, which we did maybe two or three, maybe less, times a year. We can make excuses for not spending more time together - busy, busy, busy (which we generally are not - these days anyway); or distance - they live in Gisborne which is out in the country a bit over an hour away. An easy drive, but a long one. Or else it's simply a case of time flying by and before we know it, it's Christmas again, which it nearly is, and we haven't done this and we haven't done that, and that list of New Year's resolutions is sadly and somewhat inevitably unresolved.

We got to know Bernie and Clare through mutual friends, sadly also long gone, before I began this blog in fact. I think David may have known Bernie through work contacts as well. Mostly our friendship was maintained through our mutual friends and very possibly more frequently back then than in recent years. For lack of a better word they were all 'intellectuals', thoughtful, entertaining and enlightening. Our mutual friends both died but our friendship with Bernie and Clare continued in company with other mutual friends but also by now, mixing them with friends from other sections of our lives. Fun and brain stretching was guaranteed.

I feel blessed that our last encounter was fairly recently - but no I am wrong. It was way back in July, when we visited them for lunch. I checked my diary and discovered that once again I had been tricked by time. It flies past without our noticing and here we are in November, with me thinking that we perhaps had met in September.

I have met many interesting, admirable people in my life, and Bernie was one of them. I cannot say that I knew him well, but I, and David too, were always delighted to spend a few hours in his company. We did not actually holiday together in Europe, although once we nearly did. I am sorry that we did not as I am sure that he would have been a most delightful companion. My apologies for the two bad photos - they are the only ones I could find.

I know that I have not said much. It saddens me to realise that I actually did not know him very well, but he was so much more than a mere acquaintance. So I cannot just let his passing go, without a mention. His life is over. He may not have left anything significant behind in the wider world's eyes - some scientific discovery, a work of art, a landmark of some kind. In time he will be completely forgotten, as shall we all, some, of course more rapidly than others. He does at least have a family and many friends who will remember him for a time. And perhaps that his best legacy.

Heartfelt condolences to Clare.


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