If ever there was a moment to bring me back down to earth, this was it.
I interviewed a woman today whose daughter is dying of leukaemia. A bone marrow session, to try find a potential donor, has been organised for Leicester on Tuesday. I casually asked the mum whether she’d be attending. No, because she’s flying out to Zimbabwe to be with her own father who is on his death bed. She’ll spend a few hours with him before flying back. Her faith, she said, helped her through it. She had been praying a lot.
It reminded me of friends of my mine. Their first child a few years ago was born disabled – thankfully, not nearly as severe as was forecast, they hadn’t thought he’d be able to talk or walk and he can do both and has just started school. When they announced they were expecting a second the joy was short lived. The diagnosis was not good. That she would be born alive at all was improbable, that she would see her first birthday, something of a miracle. It’s been a nightmare for them; weeks and weeks in hospitals as the little girl receives surgery to save her life.
Just like the mother I spoke to today, I don’t know how they cope and I don’t know what meaningless, trivial worries I fill my life with. I found myself saying to my friend, the last time I saw him, something I promised myself I wouldn’t say. That, actually, because he and his wife were so loving, had such good family support around them and were strong, if it was going to happen to anyone, at least it was them.
It was, of course, a crass thing to say. In some sense it’s clear that people are better equipped to deal with difficulties than others, but equally these difficulties, when they’re thrust upon people, make them stronger and when you witness that, it’s humbling.