You can go on courses now, to learn how to break bad news to people. Websites exist dedicated to it, managers learn how to do it, doctors practise in role playing to ensure they can do it well. But human to human, bad news doesn't break, it falls and spreads, rapidly transmitting through the population. As we found this morning, with the news that our colleague's son had died in Greece after a tragic accident. She has started work with us all Friday morning, to be called home by an urgent phone call from her husband. Two of the team took her, packed her bags as she and her husband sped off to Greece, to where their 19 year old lay critically ill.
So this morning, talking to the team from the ward, I heard that the previous evening, his life support machine had been switched off and he was dead. We shared the news then amongst us, the sorrow and grief of this extroverted wonderful nurse, much loved in the team, cast a shadow over the business meeting. From time to time one or other would sigh as something, a word, an image, a memory would bring us back to a hot Greek day where tears were surely falling.
Then my turn to break bad news.
And I wondered after, as I walked back to my car, shaking from the fallout, whether I had managed it as best as I could. Could I have looked more sympathetic? Used different words? Followed the planned "script" more carefully? Our ever supportive psychologist, who had been privvy to the before discussions, listened attentively as I poured it out and felt that yes, I'd done OK and that sometimes, however it is broken, bad news cannot be dressed up in anything other than it is.
Then home again to son2, now trusted to look after the house alone while his big but less responsible brother goes elsewhere. I look at him and think of the boy whose life has been ended far too soon in Greece and want to hug him, hold him tight, stop him growing and walking out into a world where boys ride bikes with no helmets, and jump into seas from rocks, and drive high powered jet skis and drink and take drugs and risks and think they will live forever.
But I don't.
I just smile and eat grapes as I continue to sort over running work things out, and go upstairs and put this computer on and play my music.
And as Kate Rusby sings about who will sing her a lullaby, I weep inwardly for the boy who now will not be singing anymore, and for the mother in Greece with a heart that will never be whole again.
Sleep softly...rest in peace.