Of course yesterday was going to be a poignant day, because it is James’ birthday. We have now managed to get through ten post loss occasions of the calendar slipping round through 11 September, a memorable date for many reasons.
Each birthday, we comfort ourselves with memories of James’ happy birthdays whilst concurrently mourning the fact that he is not with us to share them anymore.
(29! – goodness, James, that is officially a grown up, surely … I wonder what you would be doing?….)
But my memories yesterday were deflected to a certain extent by the fact I was invited to speak to an audience of around 20 people at a regional meeting of the RNLI as part of a training/debriefing course at their HQ in Poole.
Ross, my main contact at the RNLI, briefed me that he wished me to speak about James’ story, my book, our dealings with Kingston, my involvement with the RNLI water safety campaign. He also asked me to touch on the do’s and don’ts of dealing with bereaved families and perhaps give a little insight into how to remove the taboos in talking about bereavement in this context.
I was as well prepared as one can be for such occasions and I am glad that the talk went well. But it was the response afterwards, that really uplifted me and made me realise just how worthwhile is my work in James’ memory.
One of the team came to me and said,
“Do you realise how great a part your initial efforts with Kingston Council played in kick -starting the RNLI into looking at a campaign that focuses more on prevention than rescue? You should be aware of that, and how much river safety training has improved – particularly in Kingston – because of that alone”.
And the level of appreciation I received for being willing to share our story was really quite humbling.
I am proud that the negativity of our tragedy has been turned into this type of positivity.
I am coming to understand that the loss of James has given me a new voice that I didn’t know I had; a voice that will grow in confidence as time passes and hopefully help many people in regard to drowning prevention.
Although you may have read it before, yesterday puts me in mind of the Starfish Story….
“While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, “It makes a difference for this one.” I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.”
― Loren Eiseley