It really was sweet to see Bristol Rovers midfielder look to the heavens last night after his great strike to earn the Gas an EFL cup tie at Chelsea. It was a message to his late father Terry, who died horribly prematurely at the age of 47 whilst on holiday. How proud his father would have been.
47 is really no age, is it, but who knows what’s round the corner? The procession of death speeds up when you get older – I am now the oldest person in my family and there is no bigger reminder of your mortality than that – and you realise, or at least you should, that life is not a practice run.
I am not seeking to turn this into a debate about whether or not you survive your own death and continue forever in some kind of afterlife. I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to happen and I am not sure I would want it to, unless you had some kind of say as to how old you were in that afterlife and in what physical condition you might be. I am not sure I would be thrilled to bump into loved ones who were still suffering as they did in the real life they lived in before.
Perhaps these sportsmen and women who gaze skywards after a happy event are not all devout believers in a supernatural being. It could be that they are merely remembering long lost loved ones and that the only way to look is up. I know that on the rare occasions I have achieved (albeit minor) successes, I have thought, “My dad would be so proud of that” and he would. I don’t go on to think that he is sailing that sailboat in the next world, telling risqué jokes and enjoying a cold beer, but maybe, just for a blissful split-second, it’s a nice thought. I liked to see my parents and grandparents smiling. They are far better memories than of the times when they were suffering.
I understand that many people look forward to an afterlife as they seek comfort and, perhaps, answers as to why a loved one departed so soon, so cruelly, especially when they are at the end of the family line. That’s fair enough. Just because I don’t believe any of it’s true doesn’t mean I would want to be over-critical towards those who do.
Perhaps the reaction of Chris Lines is also of acknowledgement of the debt he felt he owed his father, for helping him to become the man he is today, a relatively successful professional footballer in his hometown. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a “Thank you, dad” whether you believe or whether you don’t.