It is a very long time since I’ve been able to listen to Dido’s “No Angel” album for one good reason: It reminds me of death. One death in particular, of a guy John worked with, that was particularly needless and shocking.
15 years ago, John came home from work and came to talk to me while I was washing the dishes in the kitchen. “What a strange day that was,” he said.
“Why?” I commented, putting the cup down I was cleaning, as he looked troubled.
“We had a phone call from the police at work to say that Peter* had been involved in a fatal traffic collision.”
“You mean he’s dead?” I said stupidly, not wanting to believe what I was hearing.
“Yes,” he replied. It turned out that Peter, driving too fast along the back roads to Egham, had overtaken a slow car on a bend and crashed his TVR straight into an unsuspecting lorry. The gearbox ended up in his chest and at 46 his life ended abruptly and violently, at far too young an age.
His sudden death hit me particularly hard because at 31, I’d never experienced the loss of someone I knew quite well and who I considered a contemporary. The strange thing was I didn’t even like him very much, as he was an awful womaniser and rude about John behind his back too. He would flirt outrageously with me whenever he saw me, whether John was in the room or not; a fact that the pair of us would frequently have a good laugh about in private. Of course I was flattered, for every woman, whether in a relationship or not, likes to know that she is attractive to the opposite sex but I never had any intention of reciprocating it.
The funeral was packed with friends and family, who like me, couldn’t believe that Peter had suddenly gone from their lives. His daughters, who were in their late teens, bravely gave a touching tribute to their father and his second wife, Katie* stumbled through the ceremony still in a state of shock. I felt desperately sorry for her but I had no idea what to say apart from the usual unhelpful platitudes.
As the congregation filed out of the ceremony, Dido’s beautiful song “All You Want” was played, chosen because it was the last thing Peter was listening to before he died; the CD still sitting in the stereo, while he lay in the morgue, cold and broken. For years afterwards I was haunted by that song and I would dissolve into tears whenever I heard it. Now finally, a decade and a half later, I can listen to it with equanimity and enjoy it how it was meant to be heard.
Katie and his daughters, wherever you are, I hope you got over Peter’s death and are living happy, fulfilled lives.
* Names have been changed to protect privacy