This week a tragedy struck close to us. A five year old girl, who had just started at the same school our children just started at, died suddenly in the night. Yesterday we went to coffee morning held in aid of her family. This is what we saw:

The room was buzzing with conversations in every corner, the kind you’d have expected as soon as you saw the cups of tea and tables full of cakes. Some of the people were in large groups, some were in couples, and the chairs were nearly as full as the tables. Volunteers roamed, filling cups and gathering rubbish. It was the definition of a successful coffee morning, until she came.

The reason we were all there: The Mother.

She never said a word, and only stayed a few minutes. But her presence was a power: as soon as she entered, the conversations died, unable to stand before the awesome force of her grief. In her hands she held a small decorative light someone had given her, held it like it was the most precious thing in the universe, held it like it was the sweet little girl she had lost suddenly to a sickness that came out of nowhere and robbed the light right out of her eyes. She sat down. She cried freely in front of a whole room full of cakes and eyes. A friend eventually broke the silence by saying thank you to everyone for coming. A priest said something about Mary over and over again. Then they left.

As I looked at my cold tea, I realised that now I knew what the Bible meant when it said: “The voice of Rachel, weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more”

I’ve seen Rachel. I’ve seen the Mother.