A kind great uncle recently took the trouble to find me and pass on some family papers. These included pictures of two grandparents I never knew: my paternal grandfather, who died when I was two, and my grandmother, his wife, who died when my father was eight.
There were also two letters.
One from my grandfather in 1939, just after his wife had died. The words of a strong, honest man coming to terms with his pain and groping for the strength to go out and minister to his parishioners. Which he did for the next twenty years.
One from my parents at Christmas 1986. This was a routine, chatty update including the throwaway line: "William only had a couple of days off over Christmas, this year, so so he didn't come up from Reading and we weren't enlivened by the patter of grandchildren's feet."
That was the year my first marriage broke up. Does it show that I wasn't trying hard enough at home and taking refuge in work? Or that I was lost and dazed? Bit of both.
How can I compare the tragedy of a marriage torn apart by a horrible lung disease and my own grubby misery? Although cursed by events, Harold was blessed with a clear mission and the resolve to see it through. He conquered his grief and carried on with a life of meaning.
Compare the steely focus in the first picture above with the vacant gaze from the scruffy stripling below.