"It just was" means it just happened without planning. (The comma after "do" should be a semicolon.)
Q2. Hard to say. The way it written, I would say his first birthday.
Student or Learner
The cancer of alcoholism ate away at the man and he lost his family. This was not something he meant to do or wanted to do, it just was. When you are older, my son, you will learn about how complicated life becomes, how we can lose our way and how people get hurt inside and out. By the time his son had grown up, the man lived away from the family, on his own in a one-roomed flat, living and dying for the bottle.
He died on the fifth of January, one day before the anniversary of his son's birth. But his son was too far away to hear his last words, his final breath, and all the things they might have wished to say to one another were left unspoken.
Q1: What does "it just was" mean?
Q2: Does "the anniversary of birth" equal "birthday" or exactly "one-year-old birthday"?
1. It just was. Do you understand the following:
A: "Life is."
B: "Life is what?"
A: "Nothing. It just is."
The man's circumstances were not contingent on what he wanted or what he meant to happen. His circumstances just (merely, without explanation) were.
2. It means 'one day before his birthday'. Read the last sentence again and ask yourself if it could apply to a one-year-old. The way it's written, it would be extremely odd if it meant his first birthday.
It's just an unusual way of saying one day before his son's first birthday to me.
Could anyone explain to me how this passage could make sense if the man died when the son was one year old? - specifically how the man could still have been alive when the son had grown up if he had already died on his son's first birthday?
I'm willing to learn.
It begins thirty five years ago in a big city on a January morning with snow on the ground.
He died on the fifth of January, one day before the anniversary of his son's birth, all those years before in that snowbound city.
Not a teacher.
The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - 'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.
“He died on the fifth of January one day before the anniversary of his son's birth, all those years before in that snowbound city.”
How does a native understand "all those years before" here in this sentence?