As a journalist I reported on enough tragedy to know just how suddenly and unexpectly it can strike.
Sitting in the front room of some recently bereaved person talking about the accident, crime or illness that robbed them of a son, daughter, brother or sister is a sobering reminder of just how fragile a human life is.
It is also a humbling first hand encounter with pure, raw grief that most of us – with luck – should only encounteer a handful of times in our lives.
Now that I spend my working days in the less harsh environment of PR, there are still occasional brushes with tragedy – and they are just as bruising. Today was one such day.
One of my longest-standing clients – and one of my favourites – is Alistir Tait the Edinburgh jeweller. Normally vibrant and irrepressible, it was obvious when he phoned me today that something was very, very wrong.
Falteringly he explained that his dear, close friend Rachel Sherratt had died at the weekend during a walk in Perthshire, a bewildering loss of a popular, fit and healthy woman in her prime – and deeply felt by those, like Alistir, who were closest to her.
What started out as a simple walk in the woods to photograph winter snow scenes ended with mountain rescue teams and helicopters with thermal imaging cameras mounting a desperate search for Rachel after a simple wrong turn on the forest path left her lost. She died in the freezing conditions before rescuers could find her.
My deepest sympathies go out to Rachel’s family and friends – and of course to Alistir. At the moment he is understandably consumed by grief. However, I hope will eventually come to cherish the memories of the fantastic Christmas and New Year spent with Rachel and other friends in a part of the world they loved so dearly.