Farewell John & A Private Widow

Sydney, Friday,

This morning we attended the funeral for John M., a 76 year-old neighbour who died last Sunday, the day we arrived home.  Earlier this year, he and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.   

John was a legend in our apartment building.  From the day we took ownership of our unit, he engaged us regularly in conversation, whether congratulating Clive on becoming a grandfather, asking me, “how’s your young man doing?” or telling us how much it had rained based on the gauge he kept in the garden.  Sometimes he rang our doorbell and handed us a head of lettuce, just-picked and still warm from the sun.  He seemed an old-school gentleman, always holding the door for “the ladies” and wearing a jacket and tie to the races, which he loved.

John was a one-man community watchdog and knew everyone and everything that was going on in the building.  He had standards and let you know what was expected.  On our first day here, he told me not to take garbage out the front door but go to the lower level instead, and later he told Clive not to go down for the mail in bare feet.  He was straightforward and to the point, and never held grudges.  He got along with residents of all ages, including my son when he was here and the Brazilian surfers renting an apartment on level 4. 


A Private Widow  

We don’t know John’s wife very well at all, and had only said hello in passing a few times before today.  Everyone says she has always been a very private person.  This morning as we paid our respects, I could only recall how I felt five years ago in my own early days of widowhood.

I may not know her well, but there is one thing about which I’m certain:  absolutely no-one, including and especially those closest to her, has any idea what she’s going through.  Everyone’s grief is different, and no-one can know how she feels or what she’ll experience in the days and months ahead.

Many, usually well-meaning but often misguided, will presume to tell her what would be good for her and what she should do.  In the few words we shared after the service, she said already this has started happening.

I kept thinking of John’s widow as we walked through Martin Place after the funeral.  It reminded me that we may see shiny stars, a decorated tree, and “Happy Christmas” banners waving in the breeze, but we cannot know what’s inside another person’s heart.  As much as I don’t know exactly what she’s feeling, I’m pretty sure this is going to be one of the hardest Christmases she’ll ever experience.  I’ll try to connect with her later, after the out-of-town family and friends have all gone home.   

Martin Place, Sydney CBD
Martin Place, Sydney CBD

Rest in peace, John M.  We will miss you.  May your widow have as peaceful a Christmas as possible without your physical presence.

One Response

  1. That’s so true-we can’t know the hearts and minds of others. I feel the same way about people going through divorce. Lots of pain.

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