Festive Meditation: another Christmas, another tragedy…

Another Christmas, another tragedy in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Last year at this time, ten people died and many were injured in the Clutha Vaults disaster when a police helicopter fell from the skies into a crowded city centre pub.Yesterday, six people died and eight are in hospital with serious injuries, after a bin lorry careered out of control in George Square, the very core of the city, ploughing into crowds of Christmas shoppers, leaving carnage in its wake. We do not yet know the cause, but the driver was seen slumped over his wheel…

George Square tributes
George Square tributes

And yet….through the jagged tempo of tragedy, we began once again to hear the strong heartbeat of Glasgow: that steady pulse of ordinary citizens caring for one another. People called the emergency services immediately. Passers by did not run away: they ran to see what could be done to help. Other folk sat on the street with the injured, held and comforted them, waited till the ambulances came which they did with amazing speed.

Today we are all in shock here. Everyone reacts to tragedy in different ways. The first thing I did yesterday afternoon was to call loved ones who might have been in the city centre. When they answered that they were safe, I wept. Today, our visiting daughter, her partner and their lovely little girl are off to shop – in the city centre. They could have been there yesterday, as so many other folk’s loved ones were: in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

This morning I listened to Kaye Adams on BBC Radio Scotland’s “Morning Call”, responding with sensitivity, compassion and honesty to the responses of  “ordinary people” to the tragedy which has touched all our lives. She admitted that she and her team had debated whether to make this awful event their focus or not.

They made the right decision: in the darkness of tragedy, the light-bringer is everything which brings people closer together as a human community to share, and to do what can be done to help and console. We heard that people were laying flowers. Lighting candles in local churches. Donating blood. Pledging to give money to the appeal fund which will be set up to help the victims. One woman said she would make a point of checking on her elderly neighbours today.

It was all intensely moving. But the overriding response of most people was: “It could have been me. Or mine…” In John Donne’s famous words:

“…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee…”

Terrible events such as this, and all the other ones world-wide especially the “massacre of the innocents” in Peshawar, Pakistan, have added up to a truly dreadful week for our human community, given a sharper edge because of its being the Festive Season. In this morning’s radio programme, a strong theme running through what everyone said, many of them explicitly, was that of the sheer fragility of life. We are utterly at the mercy of random events, although preferring to live in a protective insulating bubble from this brutal fact until it is torn away by horror of one kind or another.

What, then, do we do? Life has to go on. We need to mourn along with the bereaved. We need to help them in whatever way we can. But we also need to hold fast to whatever love and joy we can find in life, each moment, each day. The previous post features a beautiful solstice celebration by poet Susan Cooper. Here are the closing lines:

“…They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year…”.

What more can we do, in this especially blood-soaked Festive Season? Despite everything, let us enjoy our holiday, be kind to one another, look forward to the coming  year with its component of joys –and sorrows.

AND – many thanks indeed to all my readers and commenters. It has been an especially good year for me at “Writing from the Twelfth House”, and all of you have made it so.

In the bleak Midwinter...
In the bleak Midwinter…

700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page








16 thoughts on “Festive Meditation: another Christmas, another tragedy…

  1. Anne, I thought about you yesterday when I saw the headline…it’s a great relief to hear that you and your family were not involved. So much tragedy in the world and so unexpected…one after the other. My heart goes out to all the families and friends who lost loved ones. Wishing you and your family peace and blessings this Christmas season.

    1. Many thanks for your compassion and kindness, Bev. This kind of tragedy makes one appreciate life’s gifts and good things….may you and yours have joy and peace through this very mixed season, and a flourishing 2015!. And thank you for your great support of my writing this year. It is very much appreciated.

  2. I’m so relieved to hear you and your family are safe. Thank you for taking the time to write so beautifully. Poetry is such a comfort when tragedy strikes. I hope your words are seen by those who need it at this time.
    Have a safe and happy 2015 and a very Happy Christmas.

    1. Many thanks, Jo, for your graceful and kind words. Blessings to you and yours in this Festive Season and for the year ahead. Also – your support for my writing this year very much appreciated. Keep up your own good work as we head into Uranus/Pluto the seventh…

  3. Dear Anne , I did send a seasonal Greeting and warm wishes for you today in the morning actually I didn’t know what was happening in Glasgow in Scotland as I live in Kuwait city , I am really Sorry and I present my condolences to all the families whom lost their loved ones, I did get the latest news later during the day of the terrible event.
    May it will be the last of sorrows.


  4. Hi Anne, thank you for this thoughtful and heartfelt post. I feel particularly lucky as I walked from Royal Exchange Square over Queen Street minutes after the event not knowing what had happened but saw all the ambulances and police rush to the scene. Finding out later how narrowly I missed it all has made me feel very humble that I am here today healthy and with so much to give thanks for. It’s a terribly tragic event and there are no words to express how sorry I feel for all those involved.

  5. There are many good things about life without television, but one downside is that I often miss events that I’d prefer to know about — like this one. I do follow some breaking news feeds on Twitter, but either they didn’t publicize this, or I missed it.

    In any event, I’ve read a couple of articles now, and am greatly relieved that it seems to be an accident, albeit a terribly sad and destructive one. No one needs more terrorism. And I’m glad indeed that none of your loved ones were involved.

    You are right to advise carrying on with our celebrations. Tinged with sorrow though they may be, they also are a defense against the power of darkness. We need all of those we can find.

  6. This is a little tangential, but I thought you might find David Brook’s OpEd in the NYTimes of interest. I just spent a half-hour with the comments, and many of the things you’ve said about reductionists came to mind. If nothing else, it might fit nicely in your riles.

    1. Well, Linda, you know me pretty well! I thought David Brook’s article was excellent, reasonable, balanced and humbly open-minded. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the majority of the comments I read. I had to stop at 20 since I am trying hard to muster up some Christmas spirit….

      1. I just read the Brooks article and the NYT top picks for comments. They curated well and I came away inspired that there are intelligent people who think deeply enough about the issues of faith, religion and transcendent experience to have voiced their thoughts.

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