I don't feel like even trying to be funny today.
When I got home from work yesterday, my wife greeted me with the news that my aunt - the second wife of my dad's little brother, and a much loved stabilising presence in his life and the wider family - had died on Saturday night of a heart attack. My dad phoned up to tell us while I was at work, having got the call from his brother at half past midnight and spent the rest of the night sitting up unable to sleep, nursing his shock and dismay with an unspecified number of whiskies and soda.
We knew she was unwell, having recently had a hip replacement and not having recovered according to plan. But on Saturday night my uncle noticed she was looking a bit grey in the face and called an ambulance. She collapsed and was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced dead an hour or so later. None of us were expecting anything quite that dramatic.
I dread phoning or writing to people in these circumstances, never knowing quite what to say, but I plucked up the courage to call my uncle. I wish I could report that I found inspired words of solace, but I didn't. I think I started with "I heard the sad news. I really don't know what to say..." In the circumstances, that was probably as good as anything and certainly better than not calling at all. I told him how fond we were of her (especially Djangolina, who always got on splendidly with her - she was wonderful with children) and how if there was anything we could do etc etc - all the normal cliches. But what else can you say in these situations? I meant every word, however hackneyed the phrases I used. Anyway, the hard bit's done. I'm now waiting for a funeral date.