Reaching Out

The other day I experienced something quite profound in human nature. I was at a football match with my 15 year old son Dom to see his team who were playing really badly and were looking like they were going to get beaten by a far better team.

As my son got more and more tense at the prospect of the pasting we were witnessing I had tried and failed to console him. During the match I noticed a young toddler with a dummy in his mouth who probably hasn’t even started speaking in the row in front of us. He had no interest in the game but instead was facing Dom who was upset and visibly (and vocally) stressed at what was happening on the pitch.
I continued to try to calm him down and try to put things into perspective as his dad – I just made it worse (isn’t that what dad’s of teenagers are for ?). As the game went on I saw Dom motioning to the boy in front as he tried to move the toddlers hand which was reaching out and touching his leg and Dom complained that he kept doing it. I realised then what was going on. As he looked into Dom’s eyes I could see that he recognised his emotions and that he was going through something painful. So without even realising it he empathetically was trying to reassure Dom. He didn’t have words to say but he knew someone was upset and rather than be bound by social conventions he reached out to try and reassure my son that everything was going to be OK.
About a year ago my wife and I laughed at the bizarrely inappropriate language when trying to get a running watch fixed and all the emails from the customer service thanked her for “reaching out to them” when actually all she wanted was for a broken watch to be fixed. During that match a toddler with a dummy in his mouth and an inbuilt sensitivity to human emotions helped me experience what reaching out can really look like. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Let’s not forget that children are just as much a part of our village (or cities). Maybe we should watch and learn more from children if we are all to be raised.

A Nation Grieving

I remember really clearly waking up one Sunday morning to hear the news of Princess Diana’s passing away. This month has not been the same as that but we have lost so many. Lemmy from Motherhead, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Joe Cocker and now Terry Wogan. Many very talented high profile people who have lived their lives giving much to so many. It is not just those who are high profile though someone I know (lets call him Peter) lost not only 2 friends during January but one of them was his former business partner.

All who have passed away have family and friends whether the nation takes note of the their passing or not. The fact that the grieving is more private it is no less acute for those dealing with their loss. Peter’s friend wasn’t religious and neither were his family. There was no church to carry him through and very little money with definitely no life insurance either.

Peter had a night at the pub where he had invited everyone who knew his friend and asked them to tell stories as he put a eulogy together and at the same time a whip round to help pay for the funeral. He took on the role of the minister/ priest and pastored the mother and children as well as plan a funeral. All this he did while holding down his regular job and continuing to perform even if he didn’t feel like it one bit for a few days.

The most touching thing to me was that he used his skills to craft a temporary epitaph and even after saying they were not religious he made and carved a cross to mark the grave and have as a marker to the life that again touched many and will continue to be missed into the future.

Loss is a difficult thing to measure and go through. Comedian Justin Moorhouse on his podcast said that he was in bits all day when he found out about Bowie as he had made such an influence on his youth and life since. I vividly remember listening to the laughing gnome in my childhood and even now I think it is underrated as so much more than a one hit wonder. I’m not sure if it gets easier the more we experience grief or we learn to dull our senses to the pain the more we experience it. But talking about it, remembering those who have gone and spending time honouring their lives beyond the formal service in small ways seems to help. Maybe it all contributes to how we deal with and process those emotions ourselves. Recognising our own needs and others we may have lost in the past.

I’m going to listen to the laughing gnome and remember a genius who I didn’t know personally but knew of and is missed by his family just as Peters friend will be. Maybe in doing so I am coming to terms with the loss of my youth, and that small act of remembrance will be echoed by many who have lost heroes, culture icons or simply their own loved ones.