It’s been a few years since I spent Christmas with my two children, so I was especially excited when I recently discovered that our respective schedules meant that we could celebrate the festive season together this coming December. I quickly booked my flight to London, where my son lives, and began making plans.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, I’m sure I had a big grin on my face as I thought about our reunion. I also have a sister who lives in London with her family, so I was sure there would be lots of catching up on my holiday agenda.
The following morning, I decided to check the news online while I waited for the kettle to boil. I gasped when I read the first headline. There had been a terror attack on London Bridge. As I quickly scanned the report, I was aware of the beating of my heart.
Seemingly, some pedestrians had been mowed down by a van driven by terrorists on the bridge, while others had been stabbed after the same perpetrators had abandoned their vehicle.
As I switched on my mobile phone, a large knot began forming in the pit of my stomach. However, there were no messages from my son or any indication that he’d tried to reach out to me.
I took a deep breath, booted up my laptop and signed onto my Facebook account, where I have a group chat dedicated to the members of my family. My sister and her family were fine, but there was no mention of my son.
I tried to banish the unthinkable thoughts that were forming in my mind, but I couldn’t do anything about my shaking hands as I typed out a group message asking for news of my son.
The next few minutes went by as if in slow motion. I had to do something; anything but stare at my computer screen.
I’d just gone into the kitchen to make a cup of tea when I heard the unmistakable sound of a Facebook alert. I ran back to look at the screen. It was my son. He was on holiday in Spain. And yes, he’d told me about his plans the week before, but I’d obviously forgotten all about them.
I let out a huge sigh.
When I’ve read about terrorist attacks in the past, I’ve always felt bad for the families and friends of the people who have been slain during such cowardly and dastardly acts.
I can’t imagine how anyone can begin to come to terms with such a sudden and brutal loss. Everything must seem so surreal to them.
I suspect somewhere at the back of my mind there is a little selfish thought that thinks, “Thank goodness I don’t have to go through that.”
Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t wish anyone any ill, but I’ve never had to cope with such a horrific loss. It’s as if these things just happen to other people.
Still, I sometimes have the thought that one day I might be unlucky enough to be one of those other people. And I know such thoughts can be so destructive if you let them take root.
I’m not an overly pessimistic sort of person. I don’t think people are out to get me, or my dreams won’t amount to anything, or there’s danger lurking around every corner. Sure, bad things happen – all the time.
You just have to look at the front page of any newspaper to see evidence of this: People and animals are harmed/killed. Property is destroyed. People are left homeless. Natural disasters wreak havoc. Crops die. There is too much or too little water. People become disabled or homeless. The list is endless.
But I also know it’s how you respond to these events that’s important.
I will not cancel my trip to London, or think my flight is going to be blown out of the sky, or feel afraid when I walk around the streets of London, or worry endlessly about my son as he takes the train to work every day.
If you let other people or events dictate your actions, they will render you powerless and rob you of the life you should be living. And that’s no way to live.
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