To whom does grief belong? For whom should we grieve? How should we behave when we grieve and what should grief be allowed to spill over into?
When motorists cut up a cortege, sound their horns and curse it for getting in the way we observe the collapse of community values and understand that death has become a private misfortune—a social faux pas, almost. We curse Thatcher and recall the days when folk would stop, stand, and, in their way, salute – doff their hats, bow. In those days the grief of one was the grief of all. What was private was also public. People felt as John Donne did: Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
Once in a while the public mood alters. It fixes on the death of someone unknown to them. People become involved and engulfed in grief. In the case of some people this is explicable—up to a point. Diana is a case in point. But what about Baby P? Why him and not any of the other children beaten to death by their parents every week? As for Jade, we don’t yet know how her end will be greeted. Will she be the new Queen of Hearts? Or will she have already become yesterday’s news? It could go either way. Grief for strangers can be as fickle as love.
Out of the blue comes the death of Ivan Cameron on a day like any other: some children died, as usual; some people died too young, some too suddenly; some, very old, were borne away gently, serenely, happy to be done with it.
You know how you feel about the death of Ivan Cameron and you may have thought about why you feel as you do. He has triggered the pent feelings we all have for the way things are in a world where people go too soon, we can see that, but how do we account for the tsunami of grief? How should people express their grief and how should they manage it?
My anxiety is that grief unmanaged can express itself in ways which may, yes, discredit it. The way, for example, it focuses on one and not another. And, yesterday, the way grief for Ivan interrupted the government of the nation. I think I am with Simon Carr in today’s Independent:
The deeper we look into each other the fewer differences we find. Politics divides us a lot, our daily lives less so, death least of all. There’s an equality there, of a sort, in the end. As General de Gaulle said to his wife at the graveside of their disabled daughter: “Come: Now she is like the others.”
As a matter of fact, Ivan really was a beautiful boy. I ran into the family having a Saturday lunch in a pub on the Windrush river some months ago. We chatted.
Ivan was lying on his back in his specialist carrying apparatus, in the middle of his easy family with a brother under the table and a Mrs Darling mother beside him. He had beautiful eyes and skin, chubby cheeks. And he looked wonderfully cared for; cherished; a beautiful boy.
Having said that, they really shouldn’t have suspended Parliament for him. “As a mark of respect to Ivan,” the Speaker said. They must have let the idea run away with them. The deputies could have managed a muted PMQs, surely. And for all the private pain, there is the life of the nation going on day by day.
A suspension has happened once before in a similar circumstance. But that was for John Smith, one of the parliamentary figures of the time. He was of the place. He was a public part of the place. This confusion or conflation of private life with the Government’s, it’s just not right.
Read the entire piece here.