I suppose I've been pretty lucky. My people died at roughly the ages when one expects such things, but many are far less fortunate. One such was my old school friend J.
We were at Prep' School together (Roughly 8 -13). J's mother had already died when he was younger, and it had caused him huge pain. Then at the age of about 12 he received the devastating news that his father had also died. He had gone to hospital for a routine knee operation, and through unrelated complications (for which he'd received further treatment) lost his life.
Private schools in the UK don't come cheaply, and poor J had not only lost both parents, but also the means to attend one of England's top schools, to which he'd aspired. He was eventually sent to a local Grammar school. Everything had gone wrong, and his life had suddenly taken a nosedive. He felt totally lost and abandoned; even a tentative approach to 'God' provided no solace.
I cannot begin to imagine how that felt for him. After one particular Email, a few years ago, he thanked me, and another friend M, for our kindness through the worst of it; although I think he exaggerated any part we'd played in helping him with the pain he must have felt.
J is the only person I know to have experienced such cruel life-changing circumstances, but, of course, he is just the tip of an enormous iceberg. Children the world over experience all sorts of horrors, all the time.
Life will never be 'fair'. Some will sail through with ease, whilst others struggle to survive.
I'm pleased to say that J now lives a happy and fulfilled life in NZ, and has a loving family of his own. He continues to be high on my Christmas card list, and at this time of year I'm always reminded of his appalling bad luck (for that is what it was).
Luckily he was a survivor; others are not so fortunate.
p.s. J is a keen fisherman, hence the illustration. I imagine it gives him the peace he needs to reflect on the terrible tragedy he faced at such a young age. I send him my love.
That is nice. I have of those in similar situations at times will have the school fees covered by the school, but perhaps not back then.ReplyDelete
No, his well planned route was suddenly altered.Delete
Life is not fair. All kinds of tragedies, natural and man made, unfolding every day all over the world. Life's a dreadful thing sometimes. It's just the way of things.ReplyDelete
There, but for the grace of god.... etc.Delete
You say you think he exaggerates the part you played in helping him through his pain but the little you thought you'd given was obviously received as a much bigger gesture in a time of need. Kindness costs us nothing but can be a lifeline to someone in need. xxReplyDelete
It was a long time ago, and I can't imagine us 13 year olds having been particularly sympathetic; we wouldn't have known what to say. Maybe we simply offered a shoulder to cry on; and he did plenty of that.Delete
Very sad - I wonder what part of NZ he lives inReplyDelete
We communicate by Email. Sadly he never gives an address. So, no idea!Delete
You must have been the right people for him at the right time if he thanked you after so many years.ReplyDelete
When going through a situation like that, he probably saw things very differently. I quite expect we did our best, but I doubt it was as much as he now recalls.Delete
He was a survivor as you say. His life could have turned out a lot worse.ReplyDelete
Nice to hear he has a good life in nz.
Excellent fishing down there!
I know that he lives on the side of a large lake, where he fishes Trout, etc. I've seen pictures of his catches.Delete
To have lost both parents at the age of twelve .... what a thing for a child to go through. I can remember a boy being called out of class in the first year of senior school ( so the same age ) to be told of his fathers death ..... that memory has stayed with me as we were all upset for him. Nice to know that J has had a happy and fulfilled life after such s tragic start. XXXXReplyDelete
Yes, it was totally shocking to us boys. It hardly seemed possible. Luckily he turned out fine.Delete
The nuns were quite hard about things like this and would announce deaths of parents in assembly and offer prayers and then it was business as usual. I remember a girl of about 12 losing both parents in a car crash, not in my form, and the nuns reading it out while she stood there and we just stared straight ahead of us, stunned. Nobody spoke about it afterwards but I can still remember it now.ReplyDelete
That does sound rather harsh. At least J was taken to a quiet room where the headmaster broke the news gently. J said to me that when the headmaster put his arm around him, he knew it was bad news.Delete
The Assembly was to give the news to the school. The individual would have had the news privately and we weren't a boarding school of course. I remember the girl in question had been off for a few days and the news was announced to the school on the day she came back. I remember another girl whose brother was knocked off his bike and killed. Prayers were offered in Assembly each morning in his name for a week with the girl present. Nuns could be extremely harsh, with only one or two exceptions.Delete
My circumstances were similar. My mother (who I don't remember) died a few days after my fifth birthday, my father a month after I turned twelve. His was a long, slow, ugly death from cancer.ReplyDelete
My good fortune in this came from older siblings (still teenagers) who took on my care until I was eighteen.
It never leaves you, always hurts, but I do see it, as you said, as appalling bad luck.
It also means I count my blessings, every day, no matter how simple!
I'm very sorry to hear that; it sounds remarkably similar to J's experience. We should ALL count our blessings.Delete
I didn't become an orphan until I was nearly fifty. But I know now what its like visiting deafening silent parents graves. Great post and like you say we should all count our blessings.ReplyDelete
It's usually at this time of year when we miss them the most; I certainly do.Delete
Kindness is always remembered.ReplyDelete
I remember J as simply being a really nice person. Even at age 13 we know such things.Delete
Nice post and it's nice to hear J found happiness. As others have said, kindness is always remembered.ReplyDelete
I'm almost regretting mentioning about the 'kindness' bit. This was supposed to be about J's bravery in the face of adversity; not about his memories of us.Delete
He was (is) too nice a person not to have ended-up as a very happy man.
In all honesty I can't recall any of my compatriots' being orphaned when they were young. I can't imagine what it might have been like.ReplyDelete
I don't think I remember another friend losing one parent, let alone two. I did have a friend at the same school who lost his twin brother in a road accident.Delete