Today Has Been A Difficult Day

Today has been a difficult day.

-The girls from my daughter’s class crying this morning in the playground in fear for a classmate who attended the concert. (She did not come into school but she was safe.)

-The tales related personally to us by people who were there, as well as someone who treated the injured in hospital.

-The people still on edge in Manchester:the shopping centre evacuated; people fleeing along the high street in panic; rumours spreading, men arrested.

-The distraught woman begging on television for news of her (still) missing daughter.

-The story of the homeless man, normally passed by and ignored on the street, who ran to help the injured, cradling a dying woman in his arms, comforting a young girl who had lost her legs, pulling nails from the faces of children.

-The victims beginning to be named, the ages, the photographs.

-The kids.

-And then:

People gathering together in their thousands in the city centre in a show of defiance and unity. And on the estate where I live, we joined together in a local chapel, finding solace and comfort in community.

We will see what tomorrow brings.

image

My Bloodied Manchester

Around the time I went to bed the bomb went off.

I was totally unaware of what had happened until around 3.00am, when my wife woke me. Friends from around the country, indeed the world, had messaged us. Then, bleary eyed, we tried to process just what had happened.

There was footage of the panic; people searching for lost children; a distressed woman rang our local radio station with a horrific account of what she had witnessed; friends of ours announced that they were safe.

The friend of my little girl was at the concert with her family. There were other people attending that we know. My daughter herself was at a concert in that same venue just a couple of weeks ago. The arena can be accessed through the train station which I have been commuting from. Not so long ago I attended the Young Voices competition as a staff member with my children’s school choir. 8,000 children were present that day. Suddenly the horror that regularly unfolds throughout the world was on our doorstep.

After the recent attack at Westminster I said to my wife that it was only a matter of time before our city was hit. Whenever you are in a crowded place of course it crosses your mind. Football matches, shopping centres, and like last night-music concerts. But we have to continue.
This threat isn’t going away any time soon. We have to all stand firm against it. Of course by ‘we’ I mean all of us, everywhere. But being rooted in a place gives you a sense of belonging. This is my city. These are my people. I am proud of my fellow Mancunians who went to the aid of the injured and dying, the taxi and bus drivers who were ferrying people from the centre for free, the hotels who were taking in children who had been separated from their parents, people offering beds for the night, and more and more and more.

Manchester is no stranger to such atrocities. There was the IRA bomb of 1996 which utterly devastated the town centre. The Manchester we know today rose from the ashes of that day. But back then everybody had been evacuated, miraculously nobody was killed. Last night it was people targeted. It was children.  When we say we will go on, when we say we will stand firm, it is more than rhetoric. More than posting a hashtag. But when the people who commit such acts are targeting events that are packed with thousands of children, just what are we to do?

That is for another day.

My prayers go out to those who lost their lives last night in my beautiful city.

And The Clock Ticks On

A memory reblog-my daughter has recently turned ten years old. This was from when she turned eight.

City Jackdaw

My daughter turned eight years old today. On greeting her and wishing her ‘Happy Birthday’ this morning, she told me that she said a prayer last night in bed:

“Thank you for being seven, and thank you for all my remembers.”

I loved that last bit-thank you for all my remembers. Her way of summing up the past twelve months of her life, all of the memorable moments in the cavalcade of chronological events.

The other day I was watching her younger brother James from the kitchen window. He was out in the garden, studying a bird perched in a tree above him. He was serious and rapt, the hint of the handsome man he will be painted there on his face, and I found myself confessing a sad, wistful thought to myself:

I wish I was younger.

I have four children, and their arrival into the world was spaced…

View original post 225 more words

The Kingdom Of Memory

I first encountered John O’Donohue when I picked up a copy of his book Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World. (Anam Cara is Gaelic for ‘soul friend’.) It is a beautifully written book that I have returned to time and again. Described as a ‘poetic priest with the soul of a pagan,’ O’Donohue died unexpectedly in his sleep, at the age of 52.

Not so long ago I bought a copy of another of his books, Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Hunger To Belong.  Although I haven’t read it yet, I recently came across an excerpt from it which I have shared below. As we get older, the number of family and friends that we lose increases. It is inevitable, for that is the natural order of things, the price of life. And, for me personally as an avowed creature of nostalgia, my memories are precious and form a connection between the person I was and the person I am. The people who were, and the people who are.

John O’Donohue:

As we journey onwards in life, more and more spaces within us fill with absence. We begin to have more and more friends among the dead. Every person suffers the absence of their past. It is utterly astonishing how the force and fiber of each day unravel into the vacant air of yesterday. You look behind you and you see nothing of your days here. Our vanished days increase our experience of absence. Yet our past does not deconstruct as if it never was. Memory is the place where our vanished days secretly gather. Memory rescues experience from total disappearance. The kingdom of memory is full of the ruins of presence. It is astonishing how faithful experience actually is; how it never vanishes completely. Experience leaves deep traces in us. It is surprising that years after something has happened to you the needle of thought can hit some groove in the mind and the music of a long vanished event can rise in your soul as fresh and vital as the evening it happened.

Love Conquers All

I saw this photograph tonight. It is of the graves of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband, in Holland, 1888. They were not allowed to be buried together because of their different religious affiliations.

It leaves me with mixed emotions. I marvelled at the ingenuity of the stone hands, joined together across the brick divide and thus overcoming man’s pedantic rules.

But also anger that this couple couldn’t be laid to rest together in the same grave. For, if a man and wife could live together (presumably) in peace despite belonging to different denominations of faith, why should such ecumenical harmony be denied them in death?

What do you guys think?