These past few days I have been on holiday with my son and brothers in Central Scotland. It’s been a time to play golf, walk the hills and get together in the evening – as adults.
Last night we turned on the goggle box at 9pm to watch Rio Ferdinand’s struggle to be both father and mother to his children. It was a delicate subject and it was managed with extreme sensitivity by the BBC. Rio and his family had lost a mother to breast cancer at a time when Rio was facing the end of his career as a professional footballer – but still the celebrity (7.8m twitter followers).
The program focussed on the problems a Dad has finding a language to talk about bereavement. In the end , memories were written or drawn on scraps of paper and dropped into a big Coca-Cola shaped bottle. The detail (like the colour of the mother’s dress) were saved this way.
These memories of our families aren’t usually so hard, death spares most of us. Rio’s anger was at the randomness with which he had been chosen. And yet, I suspect that by allowing this documentary to be made, and allowing us to see straight to his heart, he has won the admiration of a nation.
Family matters; it makes sense of the randomness. With my brothers and my son, I sat spell-bound as Rio worked through his anger, frustration and sorrow and came out the other side. He had the help of others, but no more help than you might expect. Death made no special rules for him.
Most families I know, think themselves dysfunctional; we tend to focus on where we lose it and not on what draws us together. Our family has a matriarch and patriarch who – though no longer in charge- are still the moral touchstones. There is certainty in the ties that bind families together and it’s at times of hardship (as Rio found) that those ties bind us closest.
As we soldier on, striving for self-sufficiency, embracing personal empowerment, we can lose touch with these deep and strong ties on which we can rely. For no matter how much we abuse them, the familial blessing remains.
There are a lot of people reading this blog who have fallen out with close family. Girls and guys, think about it. Is it really worth the angst? We only have one go at this and Rio’s beautiful documentary reminded me that family makes getting through it a lot easier.
If you are reading this and are losing family or have just lost a close one, take comfort in Rio’s excellent film which can be found here;