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Planning Retirement Online



Relationships - November 2014

Friends and Neighbours


Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

Friends and Neighbours

Driving home after a family visit last weekend we were off the motorway and on the small country lanes, just half an hour to go. Ahead I noticed a car, stopped in the increasing darkness, with emergency flashers on. As we pulled up behind the car to see what was wrong I think both my husband and I felt a little wary. But then, on the opposite side of the road, we suddenly became aware of the most beautiful doe standing very, very still. She was white in the headlights, utterly lovely, probably fully grown, and a perfect specimen of roe deer.

We both gasped at such a stunning creature standing so close. Then she turned to walk away, slowly. We gasped again, this poor animal had one, very obviously, broken front leg.

I found the sight, the thrill of seeing this normally very shy wild creature, dashed by seeing her injury, so upsetting that the image stays with me.

The car, parked with emergency lights on, belonged to a lone woman. She was in shock and could only nod when we asked if she was the one who had hit the deer. She gave us a sign that she was 'ok' when asked, but was crying as she watched the deer disappear in the undergrowth. She waved us on and we were on our way once more, silent now.

We had a weekend of mixed emotion. Walks, laughter and fun with 2 young grandsons and 2 young bouncy dogs, but also the news that our dear next-door neighbour has died, so we were coming home to a sad atmosphere. Next door is a bereaved husband of 63 years, trying to come to terms, in his mid-eighties, with huge changes in his life. He is well supported by family and friends and is a determined, talented and practical man who pushes himself to remain active and I am sure he will find his ways of coping. We will do all we can to support him.

I have been reflecting on the loss of my friend and neighbour and will miss her very much indeed. She and her husband were instantly 'the best neighbours' to live next to, they were so welcoming. Although older and increasingly frail, there were often biscuits or cakes being brought round and little gifts for our grandchildren and offers of help with any practical tasks we fretted over.

Having no grandchildren of her own, my friend always wanted news of mine, sharing joys or concerns, offering little gems of wisdom or comfort whenever I had a worry.
Yet, for the last three months she had been waiting for the end of her life. She had a strong feeling that it would not be long and was frightened but often said how tired she was of life. She had a lifetime of health concerns which were overcome with a stubborn bravery. She had a gift for extraordinary needlework and was a brilliant cook. Her two children, now in their fifties, live in New Zealand and Australia, so were only able to visit infrequently.

So many people in our town knew and loved her. She reminded me so strongly of my own mother, petite, pretty, very intelligent, frail and determined in the face of adversity.
And why am I writing all this in my monthly column?

I want to acknowledge how important friends and neighbours can be, no matter what their age, whether they are older or younger. Nurture them. Their friendship is a gift, as yours can be to them.

I want to mark the feelings of loss which result in taking the risk of trusting and of engendering friendship. The positives of trust, friendship and neighbourliness far outweigh the pain of their loss. My neighbour has shown me love and generosity, unwittingly reminded me of qualities I knew and loved in my mother, and been a great source of fun.

The unfortunate deer reminded me of the grace and beauty of nature but also brought home the frailty and dangers of life. We must dare to live, whatever our situation, and celebrate what we have each time we are aware of good things.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

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