NL came to work yesterday, although she doesn't have to. She started talking to me, which was exceptional: it is usually me who starts a chat with her, over current affairs, everyday trivia, or other.
She told me she had not slept at all the previous night, although she sleeps little after her daughter's passing away. She went on to tell me that the reason was this: a close family friend had rung her the previous evening to give condolences. At some stage she told NL she had no idea the poor 19 year old had AIDS. "Where did you hear this?" "In the hairdresser's." "And you believed it?". NL was in tears of indignation and fury. "How was I supposed to react to this?", she asked me.
NL's daughter died in her sleep. Heart failure, said the coroner. It can happen to anyone. Usually some minor childhood incident having caused dormant defects with unexpected catastrophic effects. In fact a distant relative of mine died the same way, age 21, while walking in the park with his girlfriend. Let's face it: dying is easy.
Now, if you have children, this is terrifying: it means that you can lose your perfectly healthy child at any time, without driving or drugs being involved. The local society prizes chauvinism, children, big houses and food (I don't know if in that order). So, naturally, the possibility of someone healthy passing away like this freaked the whole Outpost out (it was in the papers). The Outpost had to protect itself from this: gossip went about that NL's daughter was a junkie, drank something, slit her wrists or her own throat from side to side (…) The glass-topped casket and the coroner's report convinced few. NL had heard those rumours, but a friend calling her to give condolences and presenting one of them (a new one) as a fact? What if NL's daughter had really died of AIDS and, in pure Outpost fashion, the family were indeed trying to cover 'the shame' up?
Let me just start enumerating here: insensitivity, disrespect, blandness, intrusiveness, callousness, utter idiocy…
You see, good manners have a purpose, after all. They protect people, even in the face of inconsideration.