In the midst of life we are in death

We were called into a meeting room the other day – the whole team – at no notice. Solemn faces all round and the manager saying “there’s no easy way to say this, but for those of you who knew him….”

One of the young men had been found dead at the foot of his staircase the day before. He’d not turned up for work on Monday, HR had called his father, and it was his father who found him. He was 29.

I’d only exchanged a few words with him – he seemed like a nice lad and he was well-liked by those who worked with him.

What I found disturbing was the need for friends and colleagues to speculate: it seems his relationship had ended recently and there has been a lot of speculation that he committed suicide.

We all need an explanation, a justification, for young death. We look for an answer to the question “why?” We live in a state of secular denial, and so that answer has to be physical or psychological.

However, I’m shocked by how many people cannot accept the idea of an accident or natural causes. My family background, which includes medics and clergymen, means I know that there is no special age before which people do not die.

Shit does happen. Ulcers and appendixes burst. So do blood vessels in the head. People slip on stair-cases, fall through windows, electrocute themselves, choke on food, knock themselves out in the shower and drown.

This lack of acceptance of the brutal unfairness of fate is behind the desperate need of the Diana conspiracy theorists to believe that her mortality was a human betrayal, not a slip of the steering wheel. The idea that the universe could be that random, unfair and cruel is frightening. It could be you.

It is difficult to know what to hope for – to hope that he died of an accident is to hope that his life was stolen from him. To hope that he died of his own volition is to hope that he was so lost, lonely and desperate that he could not see how much the future can hold when you are 29.

Either way, my heart went out to his father, and I am glad that the person who has my spare key is not a member of my family.

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