Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
Robert Herrick (1648)
And in this week of terror, terrible grief and collective mourning we may find some consolation to think of those killed and injured like Herrick’s ‘rosebuds’; cherished and adored.
The rosebud, simply the bud of a rose – cut before it blooms.
Long associated with a pretty girl. Youth and beauty and love.
Amongst them typical teenage girls, like 15-year-old Megan Hurley (above) from Halewood. Neighbours and friends spoke of her as “a lovely, quiet, sensitive person, who absolutely loved her music.”
They said she was also an animal lover, and kept rabbits.
Today we may feel anguished and helpless and very sad. But we should also feel angry at the injustice, at the attack on our liberty. 22 innocent lives have been cut needlessly short by a bomb designed for maximum impact; a statement against Western values in general and, more specifically, youthful and frivolity;
“This was an attack on the young: girls with kitten and bunny ears, braces and glasses, boys wearing dungarees, daughters with their matching mums or proud dads at their first gigs. More than 20,000 of Ariana Grande’s fans were packed into the Manchester Arena, waving glow sticks and pink balloons when the bomb went off. The gut-wrenching pictures of those who have died, are missing or have finally been found, show happy young people, relaxed and at ease.” Alice Thomson (The Times)
All 22 names of the deceased have now been released. And so the collective consoling has begun. Simple things, gentle gestures, salvos to soothe the fear that surrounds us.
But perhaps since 9/11 public grieving over terrorist acts (and to an extent celebrity deaths) has become something of a mourning checklist;
Within moments it feels; leaders, of many kinds, will make newsworthy speeches. Poems, old and new, broadcast too.
Buildings are either lit up in solidarity. Around the world – From The Burj Khalifa, in Dubai to the Hong Kong HSBC building. And across Britain, Wembley Stadium, Sunderland’s Penshaw Monument, Marischal College in Aberdeen and Belfast City Hall.
Or kept dark; Empire State Building in New York and the Eiffel Tower in Paris; as a mark of mourning.
A minute’s silence before sports games (Manchester United here and teams in the United States and Canada) and nationally at 11am.
Vigils in public places are held; (this week; London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, Coventry, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle, Bolton, Swindon, Leeds) and, in local communities, ( like Tarleton in Lancashire, attended by the mother of victim Georgina Callander).
Places of worship hold remembrance services. And books of remembrance are opened in town halls.
The rich and famous (or their PR teams) will express their sorrow. From rockstars; “With respect to the awful s*** that happened the other night in Manchester the best response we can make to the bulls*** and the people who want to hate and destroy is to give them love and joy and rock and roll.” (Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden) to popstars; “Our job as artists is to spread joy and peace and love and most importantly to bring people together through the power of music,” (Celine Dion).
Fundraising for the fallen is likely to follows shortly. (THE M.E.N. appeal for the victims of the Manchester bomb atrocity and their families topped a £1 million within 24 hours).
Candles lit. Balloons released. Bouquets of flowers laid.
You can almost hear the ‘Tick’.
Conventions in public grieving, are they now a thing? Is someone deciding the above? Have codes of practice now been written? Do the government and our national organs have ‘scales’ of terror and appropriate procedures of response?
There’s thinking that by creating larger communities of support, social media is changing the way we grieve. Facebook et al have given us a new place to express grief – for those we know and those we never did. But the naysayers say this is more a bowing to the pressure to be seen than the conveying of true feelings.
Public convention or genuine private sympathy – our rituals around death continue to be a confusing mix of the historical, the religious, the philosophical, the technological.
For those who have lost loved ones, for those who were injured, for those who were there and scared for their lives, this week will never be forgotten. For those of us who’ve observed the horror and grief on our tv screens, this week will live long in the memory.
What matters more perhaps is remembering those you care for, or feel distress for – however you genuinely see fit.
Featured image: Flowers of Remembrance, Manchester