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Jul 04

Day 1: Bournemouth to Christchurch

Five miles along the front with chatty and fun guests, we pass miles of wooden beach huts selling so I was told for at least £0.25m each. It’s a crazy world.

We pass sad memorials to young men and crashed planes and continue into Christchurch.

The men of greying Britain have been taken by surprise by the change in the weather which today is overcast and humid. The men look as cool as they can in shorts and sandals with tee shirts stretched to cover beer bellies; and it was drizzling too.

Kindness

We are told how civilised we are as a society and we pride ourselves as being kinder and more caring and sensitive than in our grandparents’ day. Really?

Why is it then that so many of our hospitals are full of dumped elderly? If these folk were babies then there would be a riot and court hearings with irresponsible families being labelled as “cruel”.

Why don’t families regard the old with the same duty of care as the young? I’ll tell you why: selfishness and greed.

Give me an African sense of community and responsibility any day!

 

Death and Lies

A sonnet by Edna St Vincent Millay scorns the idea that time is a great healer:

Time does not bring relief: you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide.

I suppose we would rather not think about death: just pass the gin, have a laugh and defer worry about the end game until tomorrow. What can fool us, though, are the Grim Reaper’s sudden pauses in his culling; sometimes he seems to get tired and retires across the Styx. For us, the last great cull was in 2011 when four dear friends suddenly died – and no they didn’t just “pass away”, they are bloody well as dead as a doornail. The Reaper pauses… and then bang! More friends suddenly pass into the great perhaps.

We are told that when a great friend dies, a piece of ourselves dies with them. I agree. And like Edna, I don’t think that time is a great healer. I miss all my dead friends, and come to think about it, I miss them more than I did when I was first shocked by news of their passing.

I miss my parents more today than when they died many years ago. A picture, a scent, a building, perhaps a view… and the memories bestir all over again. It’s sad my parents can’t see our children and grandchildren today. The conversations now would be far more interesting. My relationship with them was never easy, and I wrecked bridges I would have liked to rebuild. It’s the guilt and the misery that goes with the memories that keeps the grief so raw.

Move Along, Please!

Death was a common visitor to Victorian households.  Many children, not to mention their mothers, died during childbirth or soon afterwards. And people usually died at home, surrounded by relatives and friends.

I have only seen a couple of dead bodies in my life, for today death has been relegated to hospitals and hospices, where tubes and monitors bleep away and professionals deal with the mysteries of death on our behalf.

Do we mourn enough? Bereaved Victorians wore black armbands, widows wore weeds and formal mourning took at least a year. Okay, a lot of this was simply a matter of form, not substance, but people took their time to grieve and weep. Today we are encouraged to briskly “move on”, not to dwell on the past, and to take a hard look at the nearest dating site! We are made to feel as if we have somehow failed if we can’t move on quickly enough.

At some funerals, we hear that our loved one has not died but is instead waiting in another room. Whatever our religious belief, this is drivel. For most people who have lost a dear loved one, the loss is like losing a limb: how can they ever just “get over it?” And why should they seek “closure?”

Time to Grieve

In our sentimental yet unreflective society, we are inclined to think that with the right counselling and pills we can “recover” from everything in double-quick time. But talking about the dead at a memorial service over a glass of prosecco and an egg sandwich is very different from the expression of raw grief at the graveside. The pain of naked grief is the antithesis of the belief that everything can be fixed quickly. It’s the grieving and the experience of the pain – and not the chatter or anti-depressants – that brings about healing.

2 comments

  1. Diane Williamson

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me…us. I’m sure you remember the good and bad/sad moments of you life as you walk on this new journey to help the poor and old people of Zimbabwe.

    I lived there as a very happy child on a farm near Livingstone and can’t bear the thought of what has happened to that beautiful country. ZANE is an amazing charity and bless you for continuing to take to the road again to raise funds to help the needy people there…. I’m but a small contributor but ever penny helps.

    Thank you thank you Tom and bonne chance on your trek.

    With my very best wishes to you, your wife and dog.

    Diane Williamson

  2. Paddy Allen

    Wise words. The older I get the more I realise that pain is to be felt, not numbed, and slowly it loses its power but the cause doesn’t go away. And yet we can merrily play round its feet, like kids in a meadow with rocks – and it needs all to make the whole

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