In the past week I have seen some awesome things. Truly awe inspiring. Things I never wanted to have to see or know about, and things I feel privileged to be a part of. And I have been on a rollercoaster ride through my own past and feelings. I have been left uplifted, humbled and devastated by what I have seen.
I have seen catastrophic tragedy unfold, and I have seen the incredible compassion of professionals and community enfolding a shattered family. I have learnt a little more about shock and grief, and I have seen a diverse school community rally around with breathtaking empathy and practical support.
On Sunday one of the dads at our school working bee collapsed and died. It turned out that he had a massive embolism – a ticking time bomb that no-one could have foreseen or averted. It was a profoundly shocking event. One moment I was working beside this man, the next moment he was inside, obviously unwell, then suddenly ambulances were being summoned and cpr was being performed. There was an intense unreality about sitting outside that room, trying to comfort his children, and not knowing precisely what was happening inside, but knowing that it wasn’t good. For those of us who were there, the tragedy will reverberate through our lives for some time to come. It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed with grief for the family, as we imagine what they will go through, now and in the future, in coping with their loss and moving on with life.
At the same time, it is uplifting to see the school community respond to the tragedy in every possible practical, positive, and empathic way. They have swung into action providing meals, transport, washing, and anything they can think of to be of some use, to show their solidarity and support in concrete ways.
One ambulance, two MICA (mobile intensive care ambulance) units and one fire engine showed up at the scene, and they worked tirelessly for as long as there seemed a chance of saving a life. People at the working bee, and from the church that was meeting in the school hall, simply did what needed to be done – from calling ambulances to administering CPR, from standing by the family in their unbearable need to cleaning up afterwards. Waiting outside, knowing a life hung in the balance, and that the thread by which it hung must be incredibly thin, was intensely traumatic, although the impact of it didn’t fully hit home until later.
The upside of this wave of grief that has swept our school has been seeing our community strengthened and united in its love and compassion. I now know that my own grief has practical application in helping me to help others who are facing shattering grief, and I have been reminded of the amazing everyday heroism, both of our incredible emergency services personnel and of the people who leapt into the breach and did what needed to be done. The world is full of good, loving, compassionate people. Hold that thought.