A boy in Tween's year died this weekend. He was eleven.
We don't know how he died, but there are rumours of bullying and suicide. The school is in shock, parents are holding their own children closer. We are all waiting for news.
And while we are waiting, we are thinking in layers. At the top: we try to put ourselves in the shoes of his parents and we can't breathe. It is too painful, and we withdraw from our empathy, glad that it has not happened to us. We have the advantage of being able to dip in and out of the terror that comes from the death of a child. Not so his parents, his siblings, his grandparents. We allow ourselves a minute to think: what if?
It would be hard to keep living.
And then, a layer below. Thank God our own children are alive. We hold them close. We talk to them about sadness, about the importance of sharing, of talking. Because we know it could still be them. We look at them in a different light; with a love that doesn't often come on a Tuesday tea time. Seeing clearly their young skin, their innocence, their potential for life. We feel lucky.
And then. The concern for the school, for the staff. If the poor boy was being bullied, and he did take his own life, there will be enquiries, fingers pointed. The school is a good school and the pastoral care is excellent, so what happened? Guilt will claw at the teachers - should they have done something more? But for now, there are too many ifs and buts. We may find out that the rumours are false.
And the last layer. A realisation, or a reminder more like, that life is finite. That we all end, one way or another. But we hope that we end in a certain order, with the eldest dying first, and the youngest last. We are all owed a good go at life.
Eleven years isn't long enough.