As you grow older, the spectre of death stands increasingly before you. When you are young, you are going to live forever. You won’t be that poor unfortunate who dies in a car crash or some horrible disease because these things happen to someone else, usually when they are old.
And as the years pass by, they pass by quicker. You recognise your mortality and, unless you have a superstitious religious belief that convinces you that you will survive your own death, you see the days shortening.
When someone young dies, someone who has barely lived, you are left with incomprehension, disbelief and complete and utter sadness.
I’m afraid I have seen people die. Young people, sometimes with immense talent and always with something to live for, whose lives were done too soon.
And so we mourn Phillip Hughes, the gifted young Australian cricketer, who has died after being hit on the head by a cricket ball. No one is to blame, least of all poor Sean Abbott who bowled the ball that struck Hughes. Hughes was 63 not out, playing the game he loved, when by pure chance and awful bad luck he was hit in the neck, starting a chain of awful events that finally saw him die.
I am not overly familiar with Hughes. Until today, I didn’t really know what he looked like but I had heard a bit about him. From all accounts, he was a character in the nicest possible way. No one seemed to have a bad word for him.
So, why I am so shocked? Why can I think of little else? I like cricket more as an occasional aside rather than fully blown reverence, yet the death of this young man seems to represent more than just the death of a young man many thousands of miles away.
I have seen the incident on TV and at first there seemed to be nothing to it. Abbott bowled a bouncer, the ball struck Hughes and for one moment, Hughes stood on his haunches. Then, slowly and horribly, he fell face first into the ground. He was unconscious before he landed, he stopped breathing soon after. I found myself drawn to the faces of the fielders; utterly, horribly shocked, devastated. It was one of the most upsetting sights I have ever seen, ever. Instantly, they knew just how bad this situation was. But it was so distressing to hear the news when I awoke today.
Oh boy, the poor family he lives behind. The pride they must have felt at their successful son, all turns to dust in a second. You don’t get over that.
The BBC is covering this story as if it were an Englishman that had died, such is the enormity of this story. Nationality doesn’t matter and there’s a lesson for us all.
In an age where politicians fall over themselves to hate foreigners, the people speak. So he’s an Aussie. And? It turns out everyone everywhere is devastated. We’re all part of the same world.
25 years of age. That’s nothing. I’ve done that twice and then some.
This was hideous bad luck. Sean Abbott won’t see it like that and I understand that because he is not removed from the situation like you and I. He probably won’t know what we know: that he did nothing wrong. Cricket is ONLY a game. Abbott bowled a ball that has been bowled millions of times before by bowlers all round the world and before this week, little or nothing happened. I cannot emphasise enough: Abbott is an innocent man. He deserves our support in the same way as Hughes and his family deserve our sympathy.
I hope someone gets that message to Abbott. And, as I always say, most people in the world are good and they will look after him.
What a sad, sad story.
And what a terrible loss.