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A friend called yesterday to tell me that one of my former wives (the second) had died after a brief unspecified illness.  She was seventy-six.  

Actually, she died three months ago but it’s safe to assume that I was not on the notification list.  

The news left me at once sad and reflective.  The woman occupied a significant portion of my adult life, and we had once enjoyed each other’s company and the prospects of a joyful future.  

I’m sad because the death of any person once cherished is always deeply affecting, and reflective in the knowledge that we are all shuffling in line, with our accumulated baggage, towards the door marked Exit.

There are also, of course, lingering feelings of remorse.  They stem from the harsh recollection of my careless lack of commitment to the marriage, drawn as I was for most of it to mindless carousing, attended by a string of passing infidelities.  These, I can now freely confess, were selfish and hurtful.  In the end they were the straws that broke the camel’s back. 

We hadn’t seen each other, or been in touch, for over thirty years. I was made vaguely aware of what she had been doing via the various back-channels through which one often learns such things.   All I know is that, a year or so after our divorce, she moved back to the small town in southern Germany where she was born and raised, and where most of her family still lived.  She never remarried. 

I can only hope that she lived a happy and fulfilled life in her later years.  She was a kind and forbearing woman who deserved much better treatment than anything I managed to offer her during my belated adolescence.    

Any lingering feelings of guilt – and they were considerable – have long been assuaged by time.  That and a contentment that springs from my remarriage to M, a lovely and devoted wife, who among her various other accomplishments managed to persuade me to attend to my spousal obligations more diligently than I had ever managed to before – including, I’m happy to say, the responsibilities of parenthood.   

So now, finally at peace with my conscience, I can mourn her predecessor’s passing with belated thanks rather than empty regrets.

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