I had already heard about a suicide in the local district but the name of the family meant nothing to me. Now one of the local dog walkers told me this as I was pedalling to the local library. The couple, normally friendly and cheerful, had passed us on the other side of the street without looking up. It was clear that something was very, very wrong.
I have been saying a casual "Hello" and "Nice weather" and that sort of thing to them for some years. Occasionally they have said a little more. I have helped him find things in the supermarket and chatted to her about knitting. It has all been very casual. They never offered their names and I never asked. It wasn't that sort of relationship. They knew me as "the person who writes to the papers sometimes" - but a lot of people know me as that. I don't know them. Many of them never speak to me although they will give me a friendly smile and a nod as they pass.
But these two parents have just suffered the ultimate rejection by a child and I can't even begin to imagine how it must feel. I know other people who have lost children. There is another family in the district who lost a son to suicide some years ago. They are not "over it". I doubt you "get over it". They have learned to live with it but that is not the same thing at all.
The dog walker obviously felt uncomfortable even telling me. He isn't the sort of person who displays his emotions at all so I suspect that this had hit him hard. He has children about the same age.
I went to the library and then on to the Post Office. They were standing in the queue in the Post Office, heads down, not speaking. They were holding hands.
They reached the counter, did their business and turned to leave. They had to pass me again.
And I thought, "Damn it all."
I stepped out of the queue and did something I would never have thought of doing in other circumstances. I touched him on the arm and then I hugged his wife.
We didn't say anything at all but she went off with tears in her eyes - and her fierce grip on me in return told me everything I needed to know.