Recently my partner's mother told us she had just lost her cousin Peter in Canada.
He was a fit and well retired professor in his early 70s who had recently been on a hiking trip when he was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer. Within three months he was dead.
This led to the story of his life.
His mother Trudl (Heidi's aunt) had been one of three sisters. Each sister was blonde and glamorous but Trudl had been blessed with the beauty and luminescence of a film star.
As a young woman in 1930s Germany she worked in a department store and quickly found herself promoted to model for their women's clothing range, her posters all over town and in the newspapers. She caught the eye of a wealthy widowed factory magnate some years her senior. They were married and she had two children, both boys.
The family enjoyed an enviably opulent lifestyle until WWII broke out. Soon after that the factory was bombed and the family lost everything. To make matters worse, shortly after the end of the war Trudls' husband died of a fatal heart attack.
Widowed and broke and with the city in ruins, Trudl decided she needed to find a better life for herself and her boys.
The opportunity came to go to Canada for a modest passage and Trudl seized it.
Still young, she quickly found fashion modelling work again and rented a small apartment in Toronto. Her boys were enrolled into good schools and soon learned English.
Trudl was naturally popular with men and soon found a handsome and charming suitor who purported to be devoted to her.
All was well at first and the family were very happy. Gradually though, Trudl realised how possessive her boyfriend was. He also drank far too much and would be aggressive when drunk. Occasionally he would hit her and they split up several times but he would always apologise profusely, promising to get help for his problems, and she would always take him back. This went on for some years.
Eventually Trudl's relations back home in Germany told her they missed her and begged her to return home now things were better economically. They also knew she was not very happy with her man.
Her boys had now left school and with the eldest at university and the youngest
about to start, Trudl felt she could leave them to finish their education and they could join her in Germany when they had finished if they wished to.
She made the mistake of telling her on/off boyfriend of her plans, no doubt assuming this would be a means of letting him down gently since he knew how much she missed her family back home and they missed her.
Two days later she was found with a bullet through her forehead, her boyfriend dead beside her with a gun in his mouth.
Her boys were devastated but somehow managed to finish their university education and go on to lead successful professional lives, They also both married and had children and grandchildren.
It was obviously some years since Heidi had last thought of her aunt (whom she had only known as a child before her aunt emigrated), but Peter's death had brought it all back.