Today, I went to visit an elderly lady who lost her husband last week. They had been married for 70 years. He was 94 and she is 90. They lived all their life in the village where I grew up. They were discreet and hard-working. Whenever you would turn up, they would stop what they were doing and offer you a cup of coffee or tea.
Going into their house is going back 40 or 50 years in time. They receive you around the kitchen table. There is an old wood stove, still in use, as well as a gas one. A sink, a cupboard and a fridge. No fancy gadgets. The day’s newspaper is on the table.
It was good to be there. I went with my mum who knew them well. We talked about their life, and shared some memories. Their son turned up and we talked about his dad’s work at the cement factory. It was a hard life.
I’ve known these folks all my life. I have plenty of memories of chatting with Félix (we called him Lili) when he was cutting wood near our house. We also used to help every year in his brother’s vineyard. Folks from the village would gather to help and we would work and eat together, collecting the grapes and pressing them into wine. I remember his mum and dad also. They were our neighbours. But they died long ago, when I was a boy. Félix’s dad had fought in the great war.
Yet, at the same time, I didn’t really know them. Last time I visited was 1,5 year ago. The funeral was on Friday morning but we didn’t know until after it had taken place so we couldn’t attend.
This made me think. We must spend more time with older folks, visit often, because when they are gone, it is too late. But also, I must read the local paper more carefully and more often.
When we were in Brittany, I learned that the first page Breton people read is the obituaries. It is important to know who has died so that you can send your condolences to the family and go to the funeral to show respect. It is the same here. The first page country folks is the obituaries to see who has died. If I had read the paper last week, I would have known and I would have been able to attend the funeral.