For the past approximately eighteen years, I have been visiting a woman with a significant learning disability several times a year, when she comes into respite in Derry. When our children were small they used to come with me. Sometimes I take her out for a walk or bring her out to our house, other times I sit and chat with her in the respite facility where she is staying.
Tonight when I went to visit her, she had a beautiful flower arrangement ready to give me to put on Leah’s grave. She had got one of her carers to take her to a local shop earlier in the day to purchase it. She expressed concern that it wasn’t ‘good enough‘, but to me it was absolutely beautiful, especially as it was adorned with love.
This woman is quite comfortable talking to me about Leah and about grief and sadness, she always checks with me that I’m not ‘bottling things up‘. She doesn’t for one minute expect me to be ‘over it‘ in any shape, form or fashion. Despite her very significant learning disability, she totally gets it.
I reflected inwardly on how ‘emotional intelligence‘ bears no relation to IQ or academic achievement.
After I had said goodbye to her, I went straight to Leah’s grave with these very special flowers. As I stood there in the darkness sobbing quietly, a form emerged from the shadows and a friendly voice said ‘hi‘.
It was a former school friend of Leah’s, a young girl who’s had to deal with some very significant challenges in life. She was en route to an after school activity and recognised my car parked outside the cemetery. She took the time and the trouble to walk through the cemetery in the pitch dark, knowing exactly where she would find me.
I very much appreciated her thoughtfulness.