Matthew Lane died aged 11 months old whilst undergoing surgery for a heart condition. His name will be known only to a few, but his family have created for him a legacy that will keep him remembered for years to come. Between the English villages of North Marston, Oving, and Quainton has been created 6 mile circular walk which takes in the breathtaking beauty of the Buckinghamshire countryside. It rises and falls, passing through meadow and hilltop, sweeping down into low pastures as it forges a path through green farmland, home to cows and sheep and horses. I had the pleasure of walking this today, and as I did so I found myself touched on many levels. At certain points stiles enable passage between verdant hedgerows, and here trees have been planted around which flutter white ribbons in memory of this brave and beautiful boy. There are also plaques with his picture, along with a few paragraphs talking about his brief journey, a further poignant reminder that all life is fragile, especially that of a child.
I've known people who've suffered child bereavement; the cruelest and most unimagineable tragedy that can afflict a human being. It changes them. The world cannot be the same. Moving beyond the terrifying raw grief and abyssal loss surely requires more courage than many of us could ever claim to possess? I have only the deepest admiration for any parent or sibling that has endured this. When we lose the elderly there is a certain order to it. Sad yes, but we all have to make way. But children? What possible gain comes from this? Who would dare suggest that such a thing had to happen for a reason? Or that it had to be this way?
As I walked these pastures I also found myself thinking of my father, who died 4 years ago last Saturday. He grew up amidst this beauty; he was a country boy. I can imagine him, gangly and with scabby knees playing and exploring, getting up to all the mischief young boys should. This area is really very special to me; perhaps the closest thing I have to a spiritual home. I too played and grew up in the country, albeit a few miles further away. I've written before how I miss it, how I so want to return some day. These feelings grow more intense as I age. It's the itch that I cannot scratch.
In total we were out for about 4 hours before returning to my sisters house in North Marston for chicken pie and mashed potato's. Good times, good days. I'm reminded of what a wonderful family I have and how fortunate I have been. I mean, fortunate is the only word I can use, isn't it? I'm so aware that many are less lucky, born into homes with parents that are either unable to care or whom choose not to. You cannot do what I do for a living and retain the view that there is any justice in the world. The good suffer, the bad flourish. And if it seems unfair then perhaps its because it is, but then what do you expect? What is it you think that life owes you? Happiness? Comfort? An easy ride?
The sad truth is that every day there will be children like Matthew Lane. Infants that deserved better, longer, more. Every day parents will grieve,and many will be forever scarred by the sheer perceived injustice of it all. I can offer no real consolation. I can do no more than be a friend, be available, and offer to walk with you through the hard times. I wish I could do more. And if I could wave a magic wand then I would. Thing is, the only real magic is the beauty of the human heart as it reaches out to offer comfort, solace, and a quiet empathy. The dead cannot return, yet if we can in some small way comfort those left behind then perhaps the world will be a better place for it?