May 26, 2009

The university at which I work is on the banks of the Swan River, a broad, calm stretch of water fringed by parklands. It’s a beautiful walk along the river. At one point there is a bench with a plaque on it in memory of a twelve-year old boy who died there on 25 December 1999. The inscription reads:

Come sit a while and be with Tim,
The memories and the joy of him,
He left this world happy at play
One beautiful, sunny Christmas Day.

I still remember the shock I felt the first time I came across this plaque. My thoughts were disordered in the face of tragedy. Questions swirled in my head. What had happened to Tim? How could death come to such a seemingly safe and tranquil place? The illusion of certainty and permanence created by my mind briefly dispelled. I was an unwilling witness to the fragile and transitory nature of life.

I am touched by the poignant inscription, expressing grief, joy, acceptance and celebration of a life. Several times a year I accept the invitation to ‘sit a while and be with Tim’ whose too-brief life has touched mine through the simple beauty of a heart-felt poem.

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