Last night I was in the best of moods. Holidays had begun. I had that Friday feeling and more, as I began a weeks holiday. Gathered in a friends house the atmosphere was party like, two families enjoying friendly banter. Life felt good.
Then the phone rang.
As I reached for it, for a moment I did what my mother always does, before even looking at my phone, I anticipated who it might be and predicted what the conversation would be about. I always ridicule my mother for doing this, but I am finding myself doing it more and more lately. “Oh it’s so and so about swimming, or a night out, or a friendly chat etc”, I thought to myself.
On the phone was a friend of mine, and I knew instantly by her tone she was not ringing for a friendly chat. As her mother in law has recently undergone surgery I immediately thought the serious tone was to relay the bad news that perhaps her health had deteriorated. I moved away from the fun and games of the gathering, into a quiet room, so I could match her tone without being noticed.
She then told me a friends son, aged 24, had died in an accident abroad. As I struggled to take in the news I heard her continue speaking. She gave details of what happened. How he fell while climbing. She spoke of the anxiety of his girlfriend and family when they couldn’t make contact. I listened as she talked of mountain rescue finding him, and yet all the while I was puzzled. What was she saying? He died! There was no room for hope. It’s over. I could not process the details of her conversation. Instead my mind traveled to his mother, and I thought of what it must have been like for her as she waited and worried overnight. The difficulty of organising a search team from so far away. Then, with chills, I imagined that moment when she got the phone call, that most heart breaking of phone calls.
His mother is one of the liveliest, funniest, kindest most wonderful people I know. I struggle to imagine or picture her sad. I find it so painful to know that this woman, who brightened the world with her infectious humour and mad capped ways, will now be changed forever. For as long as she lives, a part of her will be sad, a part of her will be forever missing her fine strong boy, her firstborn. I feel sick. I have an actual pain in my chest as I, for just a moment feel her pain, before I realise that what I feel can’t even come close to her pain.
Sixteen months ago I had never seen first hand, the grief of a parent when they lose a child. Now just over a year later, I have witnessed this four times. There was Deirdre aged 19. A stunning looking, very lively girl, who went to work and was in great form only to never return home, a victim of sudden adult death. Young Ben aged 6 years who died from the effects of a seizure. His very brave parents donating organs and giving life to others despite their own grief. My pal Daniel aged 13 years, whom you are all aware of, who died in November after a massive fight against infection post bone marrow transplant, and now my friends son.
Today as I come to terms with another tragedy I pause to think. Life is so short. Not one of us know the moment our fun and games will end with a phone call. Even though my heart is breaking for my friend at this most difficult of times, I am now more determined than ever to ensure I appreciate all that I have. In fact I want us to do more than appreciate it. I want my family to value how happy we are, to enjoy the little things, and to laugh loads. Because after all, I now understand fully, that the phone may ring for any of us at any time.
Live, Laugh, Love.