The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Francis Gay

Sometimes the simplest deeds bring a ray of hope


Like a star sparkling, In the darkest night, That little, shining moment, Can help us see the light, Look for the sign, That can inspire hope, Lifting our spirits, Giving us strength to cope.

“If I thought about my neighbours at all while I was cutting the grass,” Joanne told me, “it was only to hope the noise of the mower didn’t disturb any of them.

“Imagine how I felt when, over the next few days, four of them told me they had stopped when walking down the path behind my garden gate just to enjoy the smell! How many others did the same, I wonder?”

After a long winter, and with gardens getting smaller and scarcer, that new-cut grass smell does seem to have become more precious.

And it may be stretching the analogy, but I’m OK with that. Just as when we do a good deed into the world we have no idea how many people it will eventually help, so Joanne had no idea how many people she would transport to sunnier day when she set out to mow her lawn!

I said hello, in passing, to the dad of two young children.

The son, who looked about three years old, stopped to show me where he’d skinned his elbow. He explained he’d been chasing his sister and fell. I said, “Oww! Were you brave?”

As I spoke, I wondered if I was putting an unreasonab­le burden on such tiny shoulders, or reinforcin­g the idea that boys always must be the brave ones. I hope I would have asked his sister the same question.

“Yes,” he said. Then, a little shame-faced, he admitted, “but I did cry too.” My heart melted for him!

“Little pal,” I said, “if I’d done that, I would have cried too. What really matters is that you picked yourself up and carried on.”

His dad, who was still listening, added: “They always do.”

Children, bless them, are proof that we can be brave and cry.

On the day it was announced that His Royal Highness Prince Philip had died, friends of ours gathered at the funeral parlour to say goodbye to their husband, dad, father-in-law, and grandad.

The one event was not more or less important than the other. Both men, as they drew their last breath, would have had everything in common.

Her Majesty will have vastly more help at her disposal but the widows, as they face the world without their companions of many decades, at times when no one else is around, will feel equally bereft.

We too often forget that we are all on the same road and that it will, one day, end.

If only we remembered this more often we might, at times like this, be able to lay aside politics, conspiracy theories, ideas of class, privilege, resentment...whatever...and spare each other a little more grace and compassion.

A few days before he died, John, who seemed fit and healthy, told his son Brian that he loved him.

Something he had always said was too soppy to even think about doing. You might think that would make for a nice memory, but now Brian is upset that he will never be able to say it back.

I know too many people who died without saying all they ever wanted to, thinking they had time, and people who live with the anguish of all they never got to say.

Can I recommend we don’t wait? What would you wish you had said if today was the last chance to speak?

Now...pick up a pen, open your phone, gather your courage and speak. Because tomorrow isn’t promised.

Our lives are stories and every story has an end. How frustratin­g, or heartbreak­ing, would any story with missing words be?

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