News of a friend losing their father to the virus yesterday inevitably intrudes on my thoughts today as I cycle the lanes on the edge of the Blackdown hills. Inevitably too it makes me think of my own father, as I suspect it would anyone who has suffered from this kind of loss. For however well we think we may have coped with it, this trauma never seems far from the surface.
When my father was seriously ill several years ago I spent many days visiting an ICU with other members of my family. I remember that sharing the routine was something of a salve to my own pain, though I recognise that this was separate and different to that of my brother, and certainly to that of my mother. I wonder how different things may have been had we been denied that opportunity.
Although he eventually recovered sufficiently to leave hospital, we each knew that this was nothing more than a short pause on the road to the inevitable. When eventually he died in early January of 2014 I recall that I was alone on a train just outside Lochwinnoch, attempting to read a book about Eddy Merckx. My journey back to Scotland had been delayed by a cancelled flight and I had spent many hours that day in an airport departure lounge, detached from my world and adrift in another I barely recognised. In the years since, those hours of delay have routinely haunted my idle thoughts, and I wonder if being there at the end would have erased the regret about not having had an opportunity to say a last goodbye. Or would a different regret simply have taken this one’s place? Regrets and wonderings being as inevitable as they are ultimately irrelevant, after all.
As I crest the climb to Blackborough and cast an eye over the lush expanse of the Culm valley, it occurs to me that each of us has our own moments, memories and stories, as unique as fingerprints. In sharing the stories we find comfort in recognising universal themes and shared experience whilst at once instinctively recognising the differences that identify us as separate. Oneness in our otherness, and vice versa.