We console ourselves when we grieve for Fabrice

The two questions Fabrice Muamba is reported to have asked as he came out of his coma were “did we lose?” and  “why did they stop the match?”. For someone who has been through as much as Muamba did in his childhood, the minor misfortune of a cardiac arrest was clearly secondary. What mattered was Bolton‘s progress to Wembley – he would not be moved.

Why the match was stopped, why twitter was jammed with “pray for Muamba” , why the papers continue to focus on the incident and why you are reading this blog is that Fabrice’s near death experience was played out in our faces.

We are not used to seeing death in our living rooms. Sure we will see the odd body or six on Midsomer Murders , but death is fictional and the mortuary slab confined to the television studio.

It was not always so. Wordsworth as he wondered the hills, came across a girl and asked how many sibs she had

Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”

Though Wordsworth argues that two should rightly be counted dead, the girl is adamant

The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
‘Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

I sense in Wordsworth’s grim humour, an acceptance that he has lost what the maid has, an unquestioning acceptance of the mystery of death.

This mystery is the opposite of a tragic view , as Hamlet puts it to Horatio

Not a whit, we defy augury. There is special providence in
the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to
come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come—the
readiness is all. Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows what is’t – to leave betimes, let be.

To accept the randomness of death, that we cannot control our passing or our coming, is different than to ignore it. Religion has given us the consolation to accept that there is a special providence and tragedy starts where that acceptance stops.

The utter desolation of Gloucester, blinded for his kindness, is tragic in that it allows no admission to providence. The tragedy is clear, here there is no consolation.

As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods,
They kill us for their sport.

A 16 year old boy died on a rugby field in Kidlington yesterday, a friend of my son died walking home from a triathlon training session late last year. We ask ourselves “where is that special providence?” and find consolation, as Fabrice’s family have, in an understaning that there is a wider world order, mysterious to us but ultimately comprehensible, if only in a childlike way.

We have moved so far from a daily understanding of death! Infant mortality, the terror of war, plague and epidemics are not even in our line of site. We have put our elderly relatives in homes …. and hospitals manage the rest.

Yet, on those rare occasions when death intrudes into our living rooms – we show we have not lost our capacity to console ourselves .

We cannot teach that in schools or buy it in pharmacies , it is inbred.  Like the mother duck that mourns the loss of one of our brood, we grieve and move on.

Thankfully Fabrice looks as though he will pull through. Thankfully we too will move on for if we do not, we will find ourselves in the dark place where John Keats spent too much of his later years.

I should have been most happy – but I saw


Too far into the sea; where every maw


The greater on the less feeds evermore:—


But I saw too distinct into the core


Of an eternal fierce destruction,


And so from happiness I far was gone.


Still am I sick of it

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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