One thing has really hit me during this crisis. As ever for me it’s not the grand macro events. I listen to the numbers every day on the TV – and the scientist in me looks for the patterns, trying to understand if we are getting some sort of control of things, trying to see what I think the way out might look like.
But I also connect on the emotional level. I know these are real people who are ill and dying, and I feel for every single one of them and their families. And when I’m at the bottom of the rollercoaster, I can feel very sad.
And as a priest I am very sad that the churches are closed – for me it is a place of comfort where I know thousands of years of prayers are soaked into its very fabric – and the fact that the door is locked is so wrong, even though I understand why. I know the church is not the building, but the people – but the fact that churches buildings cannot be used for funerals, I know is really painful. You have seen me describe Mac’s funeral and thanksgiving services – and although they were hard, they were also uplifting. Being in a church of five hundred people celebrating his life was one of the most extraordinary experiences, and certainly made a start to helping us to move forward. I don’t know how I would have managed if we had just a few people at a graveside.
But more than the difficulty of mourning the loss of our loved ones – I was particularly affected by the death of thirteen year old Ismael Mohamed Adbulwahab, without any of his loved ones by his side. The thought of not being able to comfort your child as they die, is unthinkable for all parents.
And that has always been my one regret.
I’ve said before in this blog that I have not dwelt on the circumstances of Mac’s death – I didn’t want to think about it. But I have always felt that even though I couldn’t keep him safe, somehow I should have been with him as his life passed. An artist friend of mine as part of an artwork asked people to write what they were sorry for, and it was clear for me that it had to be “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you died”.
As I thought of this more I decided I wanted to find out who was with him when he did die, and to find out more about what happened. So I contacted the police, and in a remarkably short time they found the names and contact details of the witnesses who were there. With some trepidation, I wrote emails of thanks and hoped to hear from them.
And a wonderful woman called Emma wrote back. She had been first on the scene of the crash. When she got there Mac was standing up – the adrenaline keeping him on his feet. She helped to get him to the roadside and to lay him down and make him comfortable. She looked for his licence so that she could call him by name and she just spoke to him and stroked him and comforted him and made sure he was never alone.
She and some others who joined her made sure that he was warm and stayed with him until the emergency services took him away. She was able to tell me how hard everyone worked and how gentle they were with him, gently removing his helmet and stroking his arm and his face to make sure he knew he wasn’t alone and that he was loved.
It is hard to put into words the gratitude that I have for the people who were with Mac, but particularly for Emma. And what she probably doesn’t realise is that she has laid to rest the two main fears that Swee and I had – I was always worried that no-one was comforting him and caring for him; and Swee was always worried that he was cold. In that reply she was able to answer that for us.
So that part of Mac’s story is now put to rest. Emma was the angel that Mac needed at that time, and I am so very glad that she was there to help him.
Emma – thank you.