I live in a neighbourhood of churches. In either direction, in order for me to catch a streetcar, I have to pass by at least one church.
Every day, at least three out of seven times a week, there is a funeral at one of the churches. So many mornings, I walk past a hearse, sometimes laden, sometimes empty. I pass by people in black, local people, who must have black clothes just for this occasion, because they wear the same thing. I see flowers, and people crying, holding each others hands.
This morning there was no funeral, so as I made my way to my local convenience store, the church sat there empty. When I got to the store, it was closed, which is odd. However, there was a sign on the door, which told patrons that the man who ran the store had died and that the store would be closed until further notice.
I had seen him only a few days ago, tending to his store. He has a nice man, a bit taciturn as I find many people in my neighbourhood, but helpful and generous. In healthy communities I think one can say that local businesspeople have the air of a local figure, someone of some importance to our lives even if we never think about them outside of their business.
But I think of him now, and my last encounter. I had gone in there to buy dog food, and they were out of food, so I left without buying anything. Context is everything - the triviality of buying dog food becomes that last encounter with someone, the last smile, the last good bye.
Soon, there will be another morning funeral, and I will know the body that lies in the casket, in the hearse that parks half on the sidewalk,and half on Grace Street.