I hope no-one minds, but I just wanted to say a few words about a dear lady called Hazel who passed away earlier this week at the age of 88. Hazel was my neighbour and she was a wonderful woman, I feel privileged to have known her.
Hazel and her husband Roy were originally from the island I live on but they were evacuated to the mainland UK during WWII and ended up settling there. They moved back for a few years and Hazel taught at the local girls' school, where her pupils included my grandmother and great aunts. She told me great stories of their school days and we would talk in the garden for hours about life on the island all those years ago and how much it has changed.
Roy and Hazel bought an apartment next door to me when they retired so that they could split their time between here and the mainland. Of course, they moved in long before I did... I looked forward to their visits every couple of months and they absolutely doted on my son, who is 6. Roy would teach him how to look after the different plants in the garden and showed him how to water them and pull out the weeds so that I could have a little time to myself. Hazel would talk to him about how school was going and encouraged him to show her what he was learning at football club.
Being a young single mum, particularly when my son was first born, I'd endured a few years of disgusted looks from the older generation, who obviously thought badly of me for being "careless" enough to get pregnant so young... Hazel was the complete opposite. She never knew that my son was conceived by rape and yet she never once judged me for my situation. Every time I saw her she would tell me what a great job I was doing, taking good care of him all on my own, and she always commented on what a polite, bright boy he is. This meant such a lot to me, because no-one else ever tells me that! She taught me that children are a joy and a privilege and that I should enjoy every second I can spend with my son, because children really do grow up fast. So today, I started listening to her advice. I've been hurting a lot lately and I haven't spent time with him at all, I've just wanted to be alone as much as possible. Tonight, I read him a bedtime story for the first time in weeks and it made him so happy. It only took a few minutes but it made such a difference. And I have Hazel to thank for that insight.
It's going to break my heart when Roy visits for the first time alone in a few weeks but I will be sure to tell him how much she was loved and will be missed. I'm thankful that she passed peacefully and wasn't ill for long.
Please take good care of Hazel for me; I know she is in a better place now with you, free from pain, resting peacefully. Please hold your hands over Roy and their children and grandchildren at this difficult time and guide them through their grief. I trust in your power of healing and comfort and pray that you will also look over all of those who are ill, or are caring for loved ones who are ill, all over the world.