This fragile life 

Today I travelled an hour south of my home to say goodbye for the second time in only a few weeks.

Over the Christmas break and unfortunately like many other others, I received news of a young life that had been cut short. Death, it seems, does not respect holidays.

I am not sure of the exact circumstances that removed the one card in the stack which brought the rest of the house down, but there was a moment of crisis in a young man’s life which was so acute and so personally felt, that he locked onto a solution which will affect his family for the rest of their lives and which ultimately ended his.

He was in hospital for a short while before he died as they tried to save him, but his brain had been compromised and he was finally declared dead. Although I was not related and he was the only member of his family that I knew, with his mother’s permission I visited his bedside to pay my respects, to see him one last time and to pass on messages of love for others who could not face the hospital and seeing him hooked to a machine.

The family members were there around the bed and in a small room to the side: a tiny circle of grief and love. I held his hand; sustained by life support, it felt warmer than mine and yet he was already leaving.

Today was his funeral – a country service in a country town, the room packed with family, friends and many who had travelled in from far and wide to farewell him. None of them quite understanding how someone of such talent and promise could no longer be among them, many of them young men in the same high-risk category for suicide.

I wrote a blog post some time ago about depression in men following a program I saw on the subject and after learning that eight people in Australia a day take this decision, leaving confusion and pain in their wake. It is not a question of blame, it is one of eternal ‘if onlys’ and wondering whether a sign had been missed or a cry for help had gone unnoticed. I have also heard people talking about their experiences in crisis and how difficult it is, paradoxically, to reach out for help from those closest to you. To anyone in crisis I would say, if you can not reach out to a friend or family member, then reach out to a stranger – sometimes it is easier to talk to someone who does not know you at all. That call may just give you the option to change your mind.

When the news first broke, someone made the point that, ‘grief is a process, not an event.’ Today was an event to help start with the process. The service ended with the reading of a poem, which I found online.

THE MEASURE OF A MAN

Not – How did he die? But – How did he live?
Not – What did he gain? But – What did he give?
These are the things that measure the worth
Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.

Not – What was his station? But – had he a heart?
And – How did he play his God-given part?
Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer?
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?

Not – What was his church? Not – What was his creed?
But – Had he befriended those really in need?
Not – What did the sketch in the newspaper say?
But – How many were sorry when he passed away?

These are the things that measure the worth
Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.

 Author: Anonymous

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