Death on holiday

It was the sight of raw grief on the edge of the forest near the little shopping centre at Matarangi as family and friends of the young man found dead kept vigil while the police did their business. There was a strange stillness with a couple of dozen police, lots of police cars, police talking in hushed tones, distant from the family. A stern, strangely familiar nod as I ran past. Wonder why they don’t ask me if I saw anything. Afterall, I might have been running yesterday.

Out on the highway, it was hot. You notice the empathetic drivers – some give you the entire lane if they can – while others assume the lane is theirs and runners and cyclists need to fit in what they don’t use up. Lots of police cars coming and going in and out of the township – they fall halfway between, giving you some room, but not a lot. You can hear their high speed tyres, almost as noisy as a four-wheel-drive.

Nearly 7ks out it was getting too hot so I stopped for a drink to see the funeral director’s stationwagon, speeding like there was no tomorrow. Strange, what could be the rush? And hasn’t he seen enough death to know what can happen when you push the limits? But I know that adrenalin-fuelled urgency from my days in the police, where you drove fast and sure-footed to and from the sober, still, scene of death. Something about death made you confuse importance with urgency, and urgency always won.

So, it was a death on holiday for the young man. Similar age to my big boys. Everyone agreed “how would you cope?”, “it’s tragic”. We feel it. We understand the grief and are secretly relieved it’s not someone we know. So what can we do to make value out of such a tragedy. If we came across someone in distress, would we call for help? Even if they said they were alright? I hope we would. We promised ourselves we would.

Give them all the space they need, but we’re on this distant planet all alone with only each other to rely on. Let’s make it a promise to look after each other. If we don’t, what then?

Stephen

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