Do you believe in coincidence? In an apparently random act suddenly producing a scenario of such synchronicity that it simply stops you in your tracks?
Well, in this past week of doom and gloom when I've been hand sanitising to beat the band and talking to friends in Venice who are anxious about both their livelihoods and their lives, I also found myself stopped in my tracks in a way that made me gasp with surprise. And then smile. And all in a place where smiles are usually few and far between.
When you drive into the cemetery in Coleraine as I did on Monday afternoon, what greets you are tidy lines of headstones that stretch into the distance for as far as the eye can see.
This is no Parisian Père Lachaise in terms of scale but the immediate impression, nonetheless, is of endless rows of tombstones disappearing into infinity.
Despite burials having taken place here for decades now, this is still known locally as "the new cemetery" and although it is right beside "the old cemetery", with its palatial tombs and saintly sculptures, it's a very different 'look' here. More streamlined, more orderly, not an over-sized headstone or a sculptured saint in sight and, for ease of grass-cutting and general maintenance, no surrounds are permitted on any of the more recent graves.
It's here that my parents now lie, right beside my maternal grandparents and in an awkwardly shaped plot that wasn't even deemed suitable until my father fought the local council tooth and nail to secure this specific spot beside my grandparents.
And so the two black marble headstones now stand there side by side: Dean - John and Jeanie, my grandparents. And Leighton - Jim and Marion, my parents.
Only a narrow pathway separates these two graves from a swathe of grassland directly opposite, a place where for as long as I can remember only two headstones have ever stood, almost as if they were in the wrong place. For all the new graves, for many years now, are always opened in a part of the cemetery that's far removed from here.
So when I drove in and drew level with my parents' grave I was surprised to see that directly opposite, a few feet away from them and on that patch of long-time pristine grassland, was a new grave.
A brand new grave, in fact, the earth still piled high, the clay festooned with a stunning array of cream and burgundy roses that were just beginning to fade. How strange, I thought. After all these years, there's finally a new grave there.
So I walked across to look at it and to read the temporary 'name tag'. And that's when I gasped out loud: "Harry Gregg OBE. 16th February 2020". That's what it said.
Harry Gregg. Manchester United goalkeeper. Hero of the Munich disaster. And my father's dear friend.
Just after his recent death I wrote here about the Harry Gregg my family knew and about his lifelong friendship with my father.
Only last Sunday, indeed, while sorting out my bookshelves after having my apartment painted, I stood with 'Harry's Game' in my hand, looking at the inscription inside that 2002 autobiography - "To Jim. An original and good friend. Best wishes, Harry."
And now, just a day later, I'm standing in the cemetery and there the two of them are. Just feet apart.
Together again in death, as in life.
Call it coincidence. Call it fate. Call it what you will. For me, it's simply strange serendipity. A poignant testament to friendship. To laughter. To loyalty.
And a final closing of the circle.