Charles Cowling

If contrary ideas can sit happily alongside each other, contrary emotions can go one better: they can merge and become a potent blend. Love and hate, for example. Courage is nothing without fear. As a rule of thumb, would you say that it’s only possible to experience mixed emotions for people we like? Take exasperation. It can go either way. Directed at someone we don’t like it’s a singleminded expression of terminal fed-upness. But when directed at someone we love, it becomes a complex mix of fed-upness and strong affection, because it’s often their most infuriating qualities and actions which we celebrate with much love and most laughter — especially after they have died.

Let me come to the point. Sorrow and happiness go famously well together. We all know the meaning of bittersweet and we have all laughed through tears. Be prepared to do that now as you read the following obituary from the Boston Globe. It is entitled Graham H Gardner, 22; ‘angel in the service of God’ and it starts:

By common measures, Graham Hale Gardner could not communicate. Traveling in a wheelchair or a jogging stroller that accommodated his 110 pounds, he uttered not a word, and cerebral palsy rendered his hands unfit to navigate a keyboard.

Instead, blue-green eyes that seemed flecked with gold sent silent messages to the complete strangers drawn to his side. He had the kind of silky brown hair that people want to run their hands through, and many did.

“His face had a radiance, and he had a beautiful benevolence about him, so that when he looked at you and connected with you, you felt like the sun shone on your whole being,’’ said his mother, Cynthia. “He just made you a better person with his incredible grace and enthusiasm and kindness, and it was all done without conventional words.’’

Read the rest here.

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