Life is scary. We get bad news every day (and now even more bad news at an even faster rate, thanks to Twitter et al). Most of it is distant, thank goodness. Bad stuff generally happens to other people. But every so often, the degrees of separation become uncomfortable close. A friend’s mother passes away. A mother-in-law. A few days ago, Stephen Watson, a writer I used to pass in the corridors as an undergraduate in the English department, and once or twice while walking in the forest, died after what I understand was a short illness. Stephen was highly respected as a writer, a poet, a teacher, and a friend, as the many tributes that are pouring out attest to.
We say RIP to the dead, but I wonder if we don’t need it more for ourselves. However much Stephen’s death saddens me, it is the thought of his wife and two children that saddens me more. Because of course I cannot help but imagine myself in their position, and it is that thought that stops my breath for a second and fills me with terror. The thought of learning to find rest again in a life that was restful, and safe, and loving. It seems impossible.
I suppose the worst thing about finding a space of rest, and safety, and love is the very real possibility that it can disappear so quickly. When my father disappeared 11 years ago, I thought it would be impossible to live without him. I am sure my mother thought it impossible. We have all managed, some with more rest than others.
I have little doubt that Stephen Watson is resting in peace. I hope his family can learn do the same.