For those that didn’t make it…
On 26th January 2020, it was widely reported that one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Kobe Bryant, had tragically died in a helicopter crash. The world was shocked at the passing of a legend at the age of 41. But what shook me most about that news report, though, was the death of his 13 year old daughter, Gianna. It then emerged that another two young people had been on board that helicopter and had also lost their lives – 17 year old Alyssa Altobelli and 13 year old Payton Chester.
The media will not report their loss like that of the late and great Mr Bryant. The world may not even know their names. They didn’t have enough years on earth to fully make their mark.
At our age, we all assume that we have a future and we spend so much time working towards it; the forthcoming exams, the future schools, the stellar careers. And they are all worthy and wonderful things to work towards. But sometimes, we need to spend to some time doing something for the here and now. What would people say about us and what we had achieved up till now? How many lives have we touched? How many people have we made smile? Do we even think about our lives? What are the events that have shaped us?
In looking for the answers, I wrote a few words about my own life that I am humbled to share with you. Entitled Jigsaw Puzzle, this is dedicated to all those children that didn’t make it to adulthood. May you all Rest in Peace.
But sometimes, we need to spend to some time doing something for the here and now.
It’s cold. I’m hungry. I can feel the piercing lights through my eyelids. I don’t think I want to be here and, excuse me madame, but I really don’t think I want to be prodded in quite this way.
To be honest, though, it was getting a bit cramped in the last place. And a bit boring.
Aaah. That tastes rather nice. This warm sweet liquid slipping down my throat. So let me get this right. I suck and this stuff comes and I don’t feel hungry any more. That’s rather clever. I shall remember that for next time. YAAAWN, I feel a bit snuggly and sleepy. This liquid stuff is alright. They should bottle it. Night night.
It’s not actually me making a rowdy racket this time. It’s a scrawny little hairy version of me that mum is holding in her arms. Dad is gently explaining that he’s my little brother – whatever that means. All I know is that I feel something really warm in my heart and I want to protect him even though he’s an odd shade of mauve. It’s a nice fuzzy feeling.
Then dad and grandma and grandpa all start fussing over him. I don’t feel so good any more. The warm feeling hasn’t gone away but it has been joined by something else that doesn’t feel so good. Something green. This is confusing. Can you have two feelings in your heart at the same time? Does the bad one go away on its own or will I have to do something about it?
He sticks his tongue out and gurgles a bit. He seems to be doing some sort of weird dance in this huge white sack they’ve put him in. The warm fuzzy feeling comes back…
“Come back. Please come back, mummy. Pleeeaaaaaseeee.”
This time it was me making the racket. But I had a good reason. My little brother was two weeks old and I think that my mother decided she liked him more than she liked me. What other reason could there possibly be for her dressing me in this ridiculous red sweatshirt and black trousers and leaving me in this zoo?
This giant room has lots of little people all my size whose mummies have dressed them in the same clothes. Is this some sort of dress code for unwanted children?
All I know is that there is a stabby pain in my heart and my cheeks are wet and my mummy is not here and it seems like the end of the world and I don’t know what to do.
“Would you like to play with these coloured bricks?” says a soft voice.
“Ooooh, yes, please,” I say grabbing a brick and being really pleased with myself when I work out that they fit together.
Oh, and I also work out that it makes the stabby pain go away and that it isn’t the end of the world. Time for a nap.
Apart from my parents and little brother, I am really blessed to have had lovely grandparents in my life who would do anything for us. Grandma has always been involved and knew everything about me, so when one day she asked me how old I was, I thought she was joking. But she wasn’t, so I replied, “I’m nine, grandma.” But my reply was accompanied by that stabbing pain again.
It’s been three years of Grandma asking the same questions and the stabbing pain hasn’t gone away. It’s not as sharp as it was before but it never goes completely, knocking away in the background. And putting bricks or anything else together does not help.
This is a new feeling because it lasts and it takes some effort to work through and understand. And I don’t think I do. Or ever will.
I have now been at Cumnor House School for ten years. The ridiculous red sweatshirt has given way to a smart red blazer whose lapels are proudly filled with the accolades of my primary years. What seemed like a big, intimidating school turned out to be a lovely and warm, cosy environment. A safe place where I have played, learnt and grown.
But as I have found out, you need new challenges to keep growing and I need to find these new challenges in a new environment. There will be great sadness at leaving what has become a part of me and feels like it always will be. This is coupled with trepidation and excitement at pushing my boundaries until they become part of my comfort zone.
So it all comes full circle. The separations, the losses. The tears, the learning. The growth, the new confidence.