I was too young to remember Evelyn Turner properly, but she used to live down the road from us.
My father recently told me the story of how her husband died. It happened one Sunday afternoon – not long after the UK trading laws changed and it became possible to shop on a Sunday. Though the pair of them had long since retired and moved from our village, they continued to visit the nearby church and so did their weekly shop at our local supermarket on their way home.
Their routine went like this. After church, he would drive Evelyn to the shopping centre. Evelyn would get herself a trolley and go into the supermarket whilst he stayed in the car. He would then wait until she was safely out of sight before nipping to the adjacent newsagent to buy a Sunday newspaper that Evelyn always complained was ‘vulgar’ and a Mars bar.
This particular afternoon though he didn’t nip to the newsagent. Shortly after Evelyn had entered the supermarket he instead suffered a massive heart attack, right there in the car.
His body slumped forward onto his steering wheel, activating the car’s horn and alerting passing customers. A small crowd ran to his aid. Seeing him alone in the car, sat in the drivers’ seat, no-one knew that he was with anyone. He was just an old man in his car.
The door was unlocked, so the paramedics could retrieve him without having the force their way into the vehicle. They simply slid him out from his seat, placed him into the back of the ambulance and transported him to hospital.
Twenty minutes later, Evelyn returned to the car to find it empty. She didn’t think to try the unlocked door. She presumed it was locked; that her husband was off buying his vulgar paper and his chocolate bar. The crowd had since dissipated, no-one knew there was anyone to tell. So she put down her bags and she waited.
He died in the ambulance. Despite the paramedics’ best efforts, there was nothing they could do to save him. He was too frail, the attack too strong. It was no-one’s fault. It was his time. 70 plus years of life, 50 or so years of marriage, 10 odd years of retirement. These things have to end at some point.
I don’t say goodbye to everyone every time I leave a car. I don’t say goodbye to everyone every time I nip out to the newsagent. I say goodbye just like anyone else does. But I think about Evelyn Turner and her husband. I think about them a lot.