Travelling on the train on Saturday morning on my way to choir practice is often an interesting experience. The people using public transport outside peak times appears to be a very different group. It's also much less crowded so when someone takes a phone call, you can hear everything.
On Saturday a man sitting a few seats away took a phone call. I didn't really pay much attention initially, but something caught my attention when I heard him say that he was in touch with his brother and spoke to him about four times a year.
Perhaps my ears pricked up as I tried to make sense of this statement. Compared to my relationships with my brother and sister, speaking about four times a year wouldn't really constitute being in touch. I wondered who had called and what question it was they had asked.
The man had his back to me and I saw his breathing sharpen as he listened. Then I noticed colour rise up his neck until his face was flushed.
I continued to listen and observe.
"We always said that if something happened to him it would be days before anyone noticed."
Someone has just told him that his brother has either fallen ill, had an accident or died I thought to myself.
"So what happened?" the man on the train asked.
"Where's his body now? Is it in the morgue at the hospital?"
This man's brother was dead. He'd been told the news when he was alone, yet surrounded by people. I wanted to reach out to him and offer some condolence or support - not that I knew the man or his brother, but I felt the need to let him know he wasn't alone.
"Yes, well I can't be there tomorrow. I've got something else on."
That brought me right back to earth. I had no knowledge of this man or his relationship with his brother. I still felt sad for him, but felt that a comment from me would not be well-received.
I'd hate to be at a point where a stranger called me to tell me a member of my family had died and my response was to have other priorities. I suppose that putting effort in after death is a little pointless - what matters is relationships while people live.
I reconsidered my family relationships. I speak regularly on the phone, email and skype with all members of my immediate family. I only physically see them about once a year as we are spread all over the country. I speak to my sister the least, not intentionally; it's probably a symptom of living very different lives on very different schedules. I resolved to remind myself to treasure all my relationships - family and friends - and make sure I'm doing more than just chatting on facebook.
How are your relationships?