Saturday, 16 October 2021

It was supposed to be a "quiet" occasion

and perhaps it was in a way but it was also a crowded one.

Yesterday the entire senior school, some of the juniors, many parents and some people in the local community gathered together and watched a tree being planted. They listened to words we had struggled to write and one man struggled to say. 

Every girl in Ciaranne's class, apart from one, had a parent there. Some of them had both parents. The girl who had no parents had her grandparents there. Her parents live in another country and could not be there.  There were many other parents too. 

We didn't intend it to be like that. We thought it would be small and very quiet. What happened was something very different. Word went around. The senior school wanted to be there and their parents asked to come as well. Some of the juniors joined in to watch the tree being planted. 

There were a lot of tears - not the least of them mine. Ciaran's boss broke down more than once. Ciaran wept openly as he held the hand of his daughter's closest friend and walked to the place prepared by the school's gardener.

But, it was also good. It didn't rain. The tree is in and surrounded by the necessary protection. There is a temporary label for now and at some point in the future there will be a small plaque. Ciaran was surrounded by people who cared, really cared. They took time away from work to be there. They cancelled appointments to be there. 

It has left him feeling bewildered and perhaps even more bereft than before. It has also left him feeling immensely proud of the way his daughter was such a positive force for so many. 

I went to an actual funeral yesterday afternoon. I didn't want to go but I wanted to say another goodbye. I made myself go and I am glad I did. J.... was 92 and I knew him for more than fifty years. He was another force for good in his community. He also lost a daughter, although she was perhaps ten years older than Ciaranne when she died. I listened to his nephew give the eulogy and understood a little better J...'s loss. He was a very direct person but people accepted his criticisms and corrections because they knew that he genuinely cared to always have things done for the best. He was a man who gave generously of not just money but time.

I sat in the church J... had attended for eighty years. It is a church familiar to me from more than one funeral, including my mother's. It is the place where we will farewell the Senior Cat. I was surrounded by people I know, people who cared about J... and were there to support his family. They are people who still care about the Senior Cat. 

And I was reminded again of the scene in the BBC series, "The Ascent of Man". Jacob Bronowski who presents it shows a short clip of a blind man feeling the features of another man's face, that of a Holocaust survivor. I remember the words,

"We must learn to touch people." 

Right now that matters more than ever.  

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