Monday, 26 November 2012


Pamela was an energetic, small, slender woman I used to know. She was full of vitality and for a time she worked for this national programme called Look After Yourself (LAY) which was part of a campaign to reduce deaths from heart disease. The LAY bit of the programme helped people prevent and recover from heart problems by using exercise.

When I got to know Pamela better I discovered she had triplet girls, all at university, whose adored older sister had died a couple of years earlier in a terrible accident. Subsequently Pamela became a guest speaker on the course on Loss and Bereavement that Ros and I ran at the university (and she has a chapter in the book).

One day Ros and I were returning from a meeting byTube. As ever it was crowded but through the bodies I saw a vaguely familiar face. "That woman over there looks a bit like Pamela". "No way" said Ros. It was Pamela and at the point that she noticed us we were able to recognise her, as she arranged her face into its animated smiling Pamelaness.

When we had first spotted her she was lost in a reverie. Every muscle in her body, but most noticeably in her face, was slack - drooped, stooped and sagging. Imagining herself alone in the crowd she had dropped her composure and had lost herself in mourning; so much so that she was barely recognisable.I never forgot that moment in which the nakedly grieving face was re-moulded into the mask that engaged with the world.

Today I left you at the airport, still a bit tearful as I boarded the train and absorbed in my own thoughts of loss. After a few stops the man in the next seat handed me - wordlessly but with an encouraging smile - a pamphlet entitled "Why Jesus?" I declined politely. Some stops later my attention was arrested by the posters for a new film: "Nativity 2. Danger in the manger".

Why Jesus indeed.

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