My mother's best friend (and my adoptive godfather) has died. I wasn't going to mention it here because it seemed too private, somehow, but I've been thinking about him for a few days now, and the obituaries are out in the newspapers, and so I thought it right and fitting to say something about a man who lived a life almost unimaginable by today's standards. He was a war hero -- the first man to escape from the Nazis as a prisoner of war -- and an army diplomat, but also a true humanitarian. He made it his business to get to know every single person he came across in the village and had a kind word for everyone. Always good humored, unfailingly a gentleman, he made my life a very happy one by taking an interest in horses (which was my passion and his), riding with me, and building jumps with me in the wood when no-one else wanted to. He gave the speech at our wedding. And then later in life, when my father died, and his wife died, he became a really lovely friend to my ma and she would drive up to stay with him in Scotland, or he would come down south to stay with her. There was invariably soup for lunch -- his favorite -- an afternoon nap, tea, a walk. And no holidays, especially in the sun -- he despised them. Instead, he like to walk or fish or golf or potter about in the garden, planting trees and shrubs, and vegetables. He made my mother laugh and told her she was wonderful (she is). He told us brilliant stories about Africa, about the army, about hunting. He was kind and good to J, to my children, and especially to my mother.
She broke the news to me on the phone, and seemed sad yet pragmatic, in her Norwegian way. "When you get to my age, people die," she said, and I suppose that is true and maybe it is something you get used to. But the space that is left cannot be filled, nor should it be.