Grief is an odd thing. You feel sad for the loss of someone; but you know they don't feel sad for you. Because, well, they're the ones who are gone. Depending on your belief system, you might believe that they feel happy for you... but equally that they do not feel anything at all.
Grief for someone you don't know is even more odd.
When I first started running here, I frequented a route to the Anzac Bridge from Darling Harbour. On the way, there is a beautiful path along some of the residential waterfront, with park benches overlooking the water. Every time I ran down that section of path, I passed a gentleman sitting on one particular bench.
He was likely homeless. Anywhere between the ages of 50-65. He was a very tall man and wore a long gray coat. He sat looking out at the water all day. When I ran past, several times a week, he sometimes nodded at me when I smiled. Most of the time he just continued staring out over the water.
I ran that path for the first time since my injury today. I ran past that bench. But this time it was empty; save for four or five bunches of flowers with notes and cards saying goodbye to this man. Whose name, I learned, was Andy. Andy had obviously died.
I stopped and read some of the notes. Touched the flowers. And cried a bit.
Im not entirely sure why I cried. Just that this man... this life... had passed, without me knowing anything about him. Knowing his story; where he came from, why he was on that bench at all hours of the day (and probably the night). Why he needed to stare at the water.
I had never stopped to talk to him. I had never stopped to ask him if he needed anything; even if it was to find out that he simply wanted to be left alone. For whatever reason, I just hadn't. Too busy thinking about other things, too caught up in my own shit... too everything, to take a single moment to care about this other human being when an opportunity to do so was right there.
The other written tributes left on the bench were sweet. They were from school children saying goodbye to "the friendly giant" and locals paying their respects to this man who had become a "neighbourhood fixture". One of them referenced one of my favourite biblical verses.
I don't know where this post is going. Except that, in the absence of having taken the time out to approach this man while he was alive, I guess I wanted to contribute this little tribute to him, now he's gone.
I'm not sure he would have ever known or cared. But perhaps it serves as an important reminder. Life is short. Loving and caring for other people is all we've got. It's all we've got to give, that comes from our innermost selves, and that we can freely offer to those around us. And we - or at least I - need to do more of that.
Bye, Andy. I hope you're at peace.