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April 4, 2011 / Mervyn Dinnen

The Precariousness of Life

Sometimes I think that we can become numb to bad news, especially when it comes in quick succession. Recently there has been quite a bit of it globally and we are used to hearing it, broadcast with sound and image, often leaving us just stunned and usually silent in disbelief.

But when the bad news affects us on a very personal level then the emotions become more focused…anger, hurt, helplessness, philosophical. We look for different ways of dealing with grief. Over the last few days two pieces of sad news hit me in quick succession, leaving me feeling quite empty.

Firstly some terrible news about someone I had only met a few times, and who some readers would also have met. Most attendees at the recent TruLondon would have seen the ‘Jobsite studio’, the filming room where we did the live streaming and recorded vox pops with the track leaders. If you were one of the people who came into the room, either to film or just see what was going on, you would have noticed Fraser MacLennan, the guy behind the camera who kept everything ticking along. We had borrowed him from a division of our parent company specifically to help with the event.

He was a great help to everyone, making sense of the live streaming intricacies and keeping the vox pops down to manageable length. In the few weeks since he has helped guide me through some of the finer points of editing.

We heard last week that Fraser had been seriously hurt in a road accident. All we knew was that he had been hit by a car whilst walking near his home. Sadly, on Friday, we found out that he had passed away.

I’ll let the last sentence hang there…because there’s little I can add. A young guy with bags of enthusiasm and creativity, I didn’t know him well enough to add anything meaningful, except to convey the shock and sadness that I and countless others will feel. What an unbelievably sad waste of a young life.

The sadness was still with me on Saturday morning when I received a phone call from a close friend. She told me that a mutual friend was seriously ill in hospital, unlikely to pull through. The sick friend is someone we see maybe 3 or 4 times a year, and last saw at a party on Boxing Day.

She had been diagnosed with bowel cancer a few years ago and had successfully responded to treatment, beating the illness. Feeling that she had been given a second chance, she and her husband planned to alter their working arrangements to allow them to enjoy life and their time together. Part of this was a long saved for trip travelling around South America. They returned from this a few days ago, but by the time they got back she was sick. Going straight to hospital she was diagnosed with having contracted Hepatitis E whilst on the trip. As of Saturday morning the prognosis was that she was unlikely to survive.

I’m sorry for the starkness of this post. It’s something I needed to write. The weekend has gone on regardless, and both myself and my partner (the sick friend is someone she has known for many years) have dealt with it together. I think it was the suddenness that really got me…no illness, no preparation for what may be about to happen (not that it can ever ease the pain).

And I have also had Twitter. That much maligned social networking platform has been a great comfort and, when distraction was been needed, it kept my mind occupied with trivia…be it punk rock, football, bingo or ice-cream. I noticed someone in the network recently complain about all the trivia on Twitter…well, it’s a conversation platform and sometimes trivia is just fine. Amongst the self-promotion, showboating and never-ending optimism, it’s often the trivia and humour that keep people coming back.

This isn’t the blog that I was planning on posting today. That was a business oriented one about the futility of certain cold call approaches. And futile is how it all feels right now.

Life is precarious, sometimes too fragile to be ignored. If ever I needed a reminder to seize the day and grab every opportunity to enjoy it then this weekend provided it. You never know what will happen next.

In times of sadness one song always gives me comfort and lifts the spirits…Do You Realize?? by Flaming Lips

I’ll be listening to it this morning

Do you realize
That you have the most beautiful face?
Do you realize
We’re floating in space?
Do you realize
That happiness makes you cry?
Do you realize
That everyone you know someday will die?

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes
Let them know you realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round



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26 Comments

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  1. Katie / Apr 4 2011 7:21 AM

    Great post Mervyn. So sorry to hear about your friends.

  2. Hung Lee / Apr 4 2011 8:59 AM

    Great post Merv. I am sorry to hear about your friends. And you’re right about Twitter – it’s a place where human kindness can still be found. Best wishes

  3. Kirsty McSweeney / Apr 4 2011 10:10 AM

    I was so sorry to hear your news Merv. Life is precious and we are all guilty of forgetting this, only opening our eyes when tragedy strikes. We all find our own personal ways of coping in times of great sadness and it’s great that Twitter was able to provide you with some distraction and maybe a little comfort. Take care & keep smiling x

  4. Emma P / Apr 4 2011 10:15 AM

    Hey Mervyn I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a real tear jerker of a post and well done for being brave enough to write about it. Big hugs to you and remember that we are here to talk about the trivia anytime you like x

  5. Christine Livingston / Apr 4 2011 11:02 AM

    I’m so sorry to hear about your friends, Mervyn. Life is short, indeed.

    Like you, I find such moments make me understand how trivial business really is; how valuable other people and community are. So glad you’re finding some comfort in your online networks. Sure, Twitter is unashamedly upbeat. But underneath, as we’ve said before, people have souls and most of the real ones are there for you good and bad.

  6. @BillBoorman / Apr 4 2011 1:57 PM

    Mervyn,
    A touching and thoughtful post well delivered. obviously Frazer in paticular hits home for me.
    nd fun in the short time i knew him. Ive liked the post to share it, but you know what i mean.
    Bill

  7. Mike Taylor / Apr 4 2011 2:06 PM

    Mervyn

    Sorry to hear your news.

    You are so right when you said “Life is precarious, sometimes too fragile to be ignored. Seize the day and grab every opportunity to enjoy it.You never know what will happen next.”

    Mike

  8. Steve Ward / Apr 4 2011 2:24 PM

    Wow – touching post Mervyn, and indeed a stark reminder of the fragility of life that you need not apologize for writing (though I look forward to the futile cold call piece when that comes!!).
    Sorry to hear of the terrible news of your friends.

    I lost my sister-in-law Cathy to cancer at the age of 37 last May, and so ironic that you chose the Flaming Lips song that always reminds my brother Graham of her because they both loved it, and which made him break down in tears at Bestival last September when he saw them live.

    I guess the Twitter thing is because it’s just people living life as they choose at the time, and that’s point of the post some respects, isn’t it? People should feel free to tweet their thoughts and stories – because it might just make someone smile who needs to smile.

    • Mervyn Dinnen / Apr 5 2011 10:50 PM

      Thanks Steve, sorry to hear of your loss. The song is very moving and always gets the crowd singing full voice…I’m not surprised that it moved your brother.

  9. Tammy Colson / Apr 4 2011 3:02 PM

    Mervyn,

    I am so sorry to hear that you are dealing with such sadness in your life right now. And I agree that we must look on each day as precious.

    I just returned from a long wonderful holiday with my mother – two of us crammed into a stateroom on the QV for 11 day – having a blast. When folks asked me “why” I was traveling with her, I simply stated “She healthy, and this makes her happy”. The elder members of my family are leaving us one by one in the last year (all in their 90’s) and I will continue to travel with mom (only 65) and make those memories, because in the end, that’s what will be left when her time (and mine) ends.

    I will keep you and yours in my thoughts. And remember that your friend and her husband have taken a wonderful trip, and although she may be near the end, they have that memory and nothing can take that away.

    Tammy

  10. Alan Whitford / Apr 4 2011 7:36 PM

    HI Mervyn

    Thank you for sharing your heartfelt post. Atlhough I only spent 2 days with you and Frazer at TruLondon, it was apparent that he was quite a guy and a real loss, I am sure, to his friends and family.

    Al

  11. Mervyn Dinnen / Apr 4 2011 10:29 PM

    Thanks so much to all of you for kind words of support and encouragement. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response here and on Twitter today. It’s meant a lot to me.
    I’ve also been really pleased that this post has helped others…particularly Doug Shaw who posted a lovely blog about his late mother. He said that he wasn’t going to publish but reading my blog encouraged him to do so.
    There is a lot of sadness around, but a lot of hope too…as Tammy says, each day is precious.

  12. Gareth Jones / Apr 4 2011 10:47 PM

    Another great and thought provoking post Merv. Not much to say really apart from thanks for sharing it and also to say that without this wonderful medium that so many still doubt, this post would not have strayed into my consciousness.

    Life goes on, lets remember with fondness those that have left us and live every minute for them on their behalf.

  13. David Goddin / Apr 5 2011 7:41 AM

    Read your post but couldn’t write this yesterday…. sorry to hear such sad news but thanks for sharing your feelings and thoughts. Our minds this weekend have been going over the sad news that our friend Richard has been given 2 months…. Nothing you can do but be there for the him & his young family and be thankful for every day you have with your own.

    Thanks for “Do You Realize?” – beautifully sad & joyous at the same time.

    • Mervyn Dinnen / Apr 5 2011 10:46 PM

      Thanks for the comment David, so sorry to hear your news. You are so right, be there for him and cherish the time you have with your own loved ones. Glad you liked the music, I really like the song. In concert ity’s usually dedicated to someone who had passed away unexpectedly.

  14. Meghan M. Biro / Apr 7 2011 3:37 PM

    I’m very sorry to hear about your loss Mervyn. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you in London. Sometimes just knowing friends are listening is the key ingredient…There are no words. Just feelings. Be well.

  15. russell byrne / Apr 8 2011 10:33 AM

    Losing Fraser was a real tragedy. Great guy.

  16. Joanna MacLennan / Apr 17 2011 5:33 AM

    I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for writing this post, I am Jo, Fraser MacLennan’s wife and I know if he were able to read this, he would be incredibly touched that you have taken the time to comment about him.

    Fraser is (I cannot write about him in the past tense) a very unique person, I know that most people will say that of their loved ones, but I can say hand on heart he is. The legacy that Fraser leaves me with is that he was always keen to make a difference to people, he believed in living each day of his life to the fullest as if he was blessed with the knowledge that every moment counted. He couldn’t bear politics at work and refused to play the game, a conversation we would often have a home – it was simple, Fraser believed you should just be true to yourself, have no agenda and be straight with people.

    I am pleased to say that because of this, everyone who has shared their sorrow with me, really knew who Fraser was, ther have been no empty platitudes, just people who have been able to say how he touched their lives, even just a little but he made an impression.

    I am proud that he is my husband and the futility of all the things we get caught up in, in everyday life seems so distant to me know that I have lost my soulmate. So thank you again for sharing, I think the World would be a better place if we had more people like Fraser, who just told it like it is, who wanted to help others and who right now leaves a huge hole in my life, but ultimately I am a better person for knowing him. Life is indeed fragile and I wish didn’t have to experience this tremendous pain to know exactly where you are coming from.

    • Mervyn Dinnen / Apr 17 2011 9:35 PM

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Jo, and it means a lot that you were able to find and read it. You are right, on the occasions that I met and worked with Fraser he was unique, so helpful and eager to make a difference. Take comfort in the good times that you were able to share, and celebrate his life…he will live on in your heart.

  17. Trish McFarlane / Apr 17 2011 6:39 PM

    You really touched me with this post. Although I do not know the people involved, I feel in some way connected to them now- though space and time- because of you. Thank you for sharing a small part of their spirits. It makes me pause to realize that each moment, albeit fleeting, may be a life changing moment with that individual. Thank you.

    • Mervyn Dinnen / Apr 17 2011 9:37 PM

      Thanks Trish…it was a post that I so wish I never had to write, but I am glad that I did, for the very reason you give.

  18. tracey dunn / Apr 18 2011 11:20 AM

    I cried when I read this – it’s very touching and thank you for making us stop – and take stock of what is really important.Enough said

    • Mervyn Dinnen / Apr 18 2011 11:33 PM

      Thanks Tracey…a re-alignment of priorities is often good.

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