Ma Belle Voisine

shining light

shining light

I wrote this piece almost a year ago.
This seems like the right time to publish it.
Click here to hear me read it:

Ma Belle Voisine

Every now and again we meet someone special.
My neighbour is just such a person.
Someone who makes life, and the world, just better.
She is older than I am, at least in her late seventies, maybe more.
She has a slightly over-enthusiastic spaniel, and she keeps birds on her balcony.
I can hear them singing as I write.
As is often the case, it is hard to say exactly what makes her so special.
She always has a smile, always greets me as though she is pleased to see me.
We break the polite rules of French social life together.
The norm is to exchange kisses only once per day, on the first meeting.
We do it each time we meet, and we actually make lip to cheek contact each time.
I call her ‘Ma Belle Voisine’, my beautiful neighbour.
She tells me I am adorable, the same spelling and meaning as in English, but with her northern French accent it says so much more.
She speaks no English.
When I gave her a signed copy of my book, she smiled at me, told me she couldn’t read it.
That doesn’t matter, I said, you can look at the pictures. It is a gift because I love you.
Her eyes shone.
I met her in the street yesterday.
She told me I looked tired.
I said I had been unwell, confined to barracks for the past few days.
Why didn’t you tell me, she asked, I could have helped you.
The look she gave me clearly indicated that this was no empty offer.
I thanked her and left quickly.
With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
Because she recently told me, reluctant to share, that her specialist recommended chemotherapy.
She has pancreatic cancer.
When I asked her if I could do anything, she just smiled.
C’est pas grande chose, she said, it is no big deal.
Every now and again we meet someone special.

Monique Primault passed away yesterday, September 21, 2016.

Tu me manques, ma belle voisine.

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16 Responses to Ma Belle Voisine

  1. Indira says:

    So sorry for your loss. She was really special. heartrending.


  2. Lynn Love says:

    Oh, C, I’m so sorry. Your description of her was so sweet and simple and touching, the kind of easy relationship we all too rarely encounter. There are some, few people we will always recall with a smile and Monique sounds like one of them. Thank you for sharing your story with us and such a lovely tribute. Best wishes to you


  3. I’m so sorry to hear that, what a lovely lady. You brought a smile to her face, so I hope you realise she must have loved you too :0)


  4. Dear CE,

    Monique lives through your touching tribute and in the broad expanse of your heart. How lovely that you wrote it while she still lived and not in retrospect. That speaks volume upon volume.




  5. Al says:

    I am so sorry. When we meet someone like that, they come into our life for a reason. I don’t think she came into yours, I think you came into hers. I wish there was more I could say.


  6. What a lovely tribute for your friend. I am sorry for your loss.
    (I had the same experience this week myself. My elderly neighbour, one of the kindest persons I’ve ever met, passed away on Monday.)


  7. Tu as réussi à me faire pleurer tellement c’est émouvant


  8. Dale says:

    What a beautiful tribute to what sounds like a lovely woman.
    My deepest condolences to you, my friend. xoxo


  9. emmylgant says:

    Beautiful words for a truly beautiful woman.
    A very moving tribute straight from the heart.


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