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In my experience most humans are at their best when times are the worst. Sure there are a few that will loot during a riot, or take advantage of a situation, but for the most part when things are tough, people rise to the occasion. It has always touched me deeply when a stranger performs a kindess.

This week the tragic loss of a young sportsman rocked the entire sporting world, but especially here in Australia. He was one of our sons. Several moments have brought the tears, but none more so than last evening during the news when the Captain of the Australian Cricket Team choked back his own tears and quoted the young man:

Where else would you be, boys, but playing cricket for your country? –Phillip Hughes


Phillip would have been 26 today, the exact same age as our daughter.

Our daughter is in Human Resources management at the South Australian Cricket Association, Phillip’s adopted home ground. Needless to say she and everyone there was rocked by this tragedy. Some tragic events are especially evocative and galvanise people in extraordinary ways. On the day Phillip died, Twitter spontaneously erupted in a series of memorial tweets and photos that were hashtagged #putyourbatsout. Then again on Instagram more bat photos with a hashtag of #63notout (which was the score Phillip had when he was hit by the bowl that took his life) Never has social media been better.

The photo taken by SACA of the memorial bat and hat and retired #64 shirt

The photo taken by SACA of the memorial bat and hat and retired #64 shirt

At his young age, Phillip had already covered himself with glory, both as a batsman and as a loveable, cheeky and humble young man. Several of the broadcasters have tried to add their insights, but it is very difficult for everyone to grasp. One mentioned the following though I’m not sure all of us would agree with it:

“One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name.” -Sir Walter Scott

To be sure, there are many thousands of people dying in the world every day from tragic, and probably heroic, circumstances. We don’t know them we don’t even hear of their deaths, but we know it happens. Perhaps when it is a situation such as this, and we not only feel we know the deceased, but had the unusual and disturbing occasion to see the impact that took his life, we are awakened. Why must it take this kind of thing to make us pause and realise how tenuous is life? Perhaps it will bring new gratitude to the fore of our minds so that we can realise what is truly important in life, especially at this time of year when it is easy to become swept up in the frenetic sale-abrations and celebrations.

The images of bats set out all over the world in memory of a man most of us have never met will live long in my mind. Adding to the poignancy is the term ‘vale’, an old English word derived from Latin, used when someone has passed. It means ‘farewell’ or ‘goodbye’. A Valedictorian gives the ‘farewell’ speech at a school graduation.

Vale Phillip Hughes, may your passing remind us to be grateful for what we have.