My grandmother used to crochet. She would spend hours making granny squares, until they got to be gigantic enough to form lovely, warm, woollen blankets. All of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have them. She would crochet in front of the television, almost reflexively, creating these wonderful things for us. Each one, to this day, wraps you in love. She’s no longer here and so nobody in our family makes the blankets any more. I don’t think many of her extended family knows how. We’ve lost that art.
My grandfather was a talented opera singer. His voice was stentorian, yet tenor. Without a microphone, he could fill a hall and be heard at the very back row, but the quality of his voice was rich and golden, mellifluous and powerful. We loved to hear him sing, though he did it so infrequently. He was also an avid collector of silent movies. His knowledge of silent movie comedy was encyclopaedic and though I seldom had the chance to sit and watch his old films with him, it is a childhood memory that I cherish. When he died, his collection was sold off and broken up. It no longer exists. His music is no longer heard. There is only silence.
My uncle, my mother’s brother, was also a very talented man. He was a songwriter and also a beautiful baritone singer. He had a very kind heart and was the most optimistic man I know. He could also make films. Now he’s gone and his films are no longer made, or watched. There are no new songs issuing forth. His art died with him.
When they were alive, the world was being filled with wonderful, new, artful things. Now they are gone, there is a sad, hollow vacuum, where their contributions once were. It all ended so suddenly. One day they were there and the next, they weren’t.
There was a recent case of three young men attempting to become SAS soldiers, who perished from the effects of heat stroke. Their internal organs and nervous system failed catastrophically, because their core body temperatures rose too high, while they were training, on one of the hottest days of the year, carrying, I have no doubt, full combat gear and a heavy pack. Somebody had convinced them that they could overcome anything, with the right attitude and enough will power. Mind over matter. The limits of physics, the strength of bodily materials and biology could be overcome, if you just thought about it the right way, they had been told.
Of course, this myth is nonsense and implanting the idea that these chaps could carry on, as if the ambient temperature posed no mortal threat, was a form of wilfully induced self-destructive insanity. Those that planted the idea bear some culpability. These young men succeeded in ending their own lives, but for what purpose? For the right to wear an elite uniform, special insignia and to brag about their physical prowess? It doesn’t seem worth it, to me. Who could they have possibly protected, if they were incapable of protecting themselves?
The thing is that life is actually quite fragile. It ends in a heartbeat. Everything can be fine one minute and then it’s suddenly gone. And you can’t bring back the dead. We could, each one of us, go at any time. When we go, the music that we make, the art that we create and the stories that we tell, stop too. Forever.
Be kind to each other and kind to yourself. Life is temporary and can be taken at any moment. Cherish every living moment for the sake of the art that is still to come.