On Sunday last tragedy struck in the London marathon as a young woman collapsed and died just a few hundred yards from the end of the race. On Sunday in Liverpool another young woman died having had to abandon her dreamed of final holiday at the airport because her illness had almost run its course. Each is dreadfully sad. One is in the public eye and the other, rightly, almost completely private. Behind each story are real people who are grieving.
The outpouring of donations on Claire Squires Justgiving page is amazing - heading towards £600k when I looked this morning. As I watch and read, I find myself wondering what it is that has triggered this response (one which I have to confess I find infinitely preferable to the laying of flowers). Is it because Claire's tragic death has reminded people of their own mortality, the frailty and fleeting nature of life? Is it because she died supporting a charity we equate with helping people at their point of greatest emotional need, choosing to live rather than to die? Is it because she represents something that many aspire to to and cannot be? I don't know. I do know that out of this tragedy something amazing will arise. That won't ease the loss or pain of Claire's family, but maybe it helps make a little bit of sense.
T was someone I knew only online and only vaguely. She had a husband and a little boy who was a mere 8 months old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Sadly, younger women (under 50) tend to have worse outcomes, and although on paper her initial diagnosis was better than mine, her cancer raged through her young body. Knowing she did not have long left, and with the consent of her doctors, she planned one last holiday. Having had to turn back from the airport, her final post was that she was glad she hadn't been taken ill mid-flight, causing the plane to divert and ruining other people's holidays. A kind, funny, generous and devout woman, her last online request was that 'prayers are welcome'. In a small corner of cyberspace, tributes have been made to T. Out of her tragedy, hope's star shines.
And all over the world are countless other examples of the bittersweet juxtaposition of beauty and brokenness. Families grieving personal tragedy, yet turning their pain to the good. That doesn't make it all alright, there are still big questions people need to ask - and to which they may never find answers this side of eternity. But perhaps it reminds us that ultimately, the attributes of love, hope, kindness, etc (Gal 5 for Bible readers) are stronger than evil or death.
RIP Claire. RIP T. May God grant you peace, and bring comfort to your families.