I’d planned a post for today about something completely different1, but that’s been thrown out of the window by the devastating news that our friendly local pharmacist in my sleepy little Northamptonshire village died in a car crash on Tuesday – an incident I happened to see the aftermath of as I drove down the opposite carriageway.

If I’m 100% honest, which I always endeavour to be here, I don’t understand why I’m as upset as I am. After all, she wasn’t a close friend – we didn’t swap mobile numbers, we’d never met outside of the village pharmacy and I’m not sure we ever expected to.

Yet she was one of those “constants” in life. A welcome – and welcoming – presence at our frequent2 trips to collect my myriad different pills and potions that were always kept stocked “just in case”. She was always ready with a smile, a joke and, after her wedding last summer, even the photos to delight K and I with.

What this abundant sense of sadness and loss tells me more than anything else is that none of us will ever know the impact we have on the lives of those around us. We cannot conceive of the effect we have across so many of the people we come into contact with.

I have a favourite quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson:

I am part of all that I have met.

It’s one of my all-time favourite quotes because it is such a simply-told truth. Each of us are shaped and changed – for better or worse – by those around us: from our long-term relationships and family life to the fleeting interactions we have each and every day.

Think of the last time you went into a shop in a good mood, smiling at the world and enjoying your day only to be served by a rude, grumpy check-out assistant. It may not have ruined your day, but I’ll bet that for the next few minutes at least you had a little less spring in your step.

Perhaps that’s why I feel such a sense of despairing loss for Joanna, because every time someone with whom our lives have interacted dies, a little part of us does, too.

But what makes me smile and keep going is knowing that while a little part of us may die, a larger part of them lives on within us. We become, almost automatically, a conduit for their continued life.

By remembering them, by talking about them, by taking what they gave to the world and sharing it with others – even in just a little smile and warm welcome for the people who fleetingly pass in and out of our lives – we are taking their impact on us and spreading it further.

I’m sure the shock is also a big factor in this, the suddenness and lack of preparation we all had, but today I choose to be happy for what Joanna gave me in her life and to be mindful of her and all the others I have lost, grateful for what they left in me and safe in the knowledge that they will not be forgotten.

Whatever you do today, do it with kindness: you never know whose life you may be touching with your every thought and deed.

Keep smiling.

Some other posts you might like:

  1. Truth be told, I’ve no idea what it was []
  2. up to 3-times a week some weeks []