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  • Monique Sliedrecht

Shining Star


I went for a walk yesterday evening. The impulse to get out before the light was too dim suddenly became very strong, and almost without thought, an instinctual need to get things out of my system led the way. It was a brusque walk, a determined walk, my mind was reeling, but I was eager to stomp out the terrible sadness, or anger, or both.


I took large strides, not really looking to the right or left, except to see where I was going. But I knew where I was going. I had walked this beach hundreds of times. I looked down, stomping in the sand, bypassing the beauty along the way, too caught up in my own thoughts, tears falling. The crisp air made the wet on my cheeks a bit colder, but it was a good match for the rigour and pace. The cool gentle breeze seemed to clear away the cobwebs sticking to my brain and heavy heart. I started to breathe more deeply, getting out of the terrible haze I found myself in earlier.


On the way back along the beach, tiredness set in and the sky started to call me out of my trance ‘Look at me,’ it said. I looked up to the pink sky and grey-blue cloud over the semi-still water. A couple of seals bobbed up and down, viewing me curiously.


What struck me at that moment was how reminiscent this was of the walk I went on with my friend some years ago, on this same beach. The memory of that time flooded back into cognisance waking me up with it’s sudden connection. How uncanny.


It was around the same time of year too. We had a moment in-between festivities to step out, catch up, share. The things she shared with me on that walk will stay with me, and I hope I can bring some of it to practice. She was a wise, kind, compassionate and generous soul, and sensitive, worried that she might be saying too much — but she wasn’t - saying too much.


All of that came flooding back to mind in a very real and poignant way on this walk.

Funny how the sudden loss of someone does that.


I woke up to the difficult news yesterday morning.


'** Press statement: A Rocha International staff in fatal accident in South Africa

On Monday 28th October Peter and Miranda Harris, co-founders of A Rocha, and Chris Naylor, A Rocha International CEO, together with his wife Susanna, were involved in an horrific car accident in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Miranda, Chris and Susanna did not survive. Peter and the driver of the car are being treated at a local hospital and are in a stable condition. We await further news on their progress.'


We were in touch only two weeks ago. I had her and Peter (her husband) on my mind and so (sometimes, but not always, characteristic of me,) I wrote them a brief few lines saying I was thinking of them. It prompted a usual considered and warm response, not at all unexpected, as that is how conscious and attentive Miranda was to others. The letter was lovely and chatty as she gave me an update on her and Peter’s plans, told me how she was keen to get out walking in the Welsh countryside again, but had to wait for getting surgery on her foot, mentioned that her son had just moved to Scotland and his wife, an artist, would love it at Freswick. She invited me to come and stay whenever, and said she hoped our paths would cross soon again.


I printed that letter yesterday, and found the others from her - handwritten cards and notes - one with a photo of an Icelandic Gull on the front which Peter had taken. He was so proud to spot that bird when they were here in the north with us.


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How often does it occur that someone suddenly comes to mind without prompting and we do nothing about it?

I wonder how it would be if we became more alert and aware to these nudgings, and acted on them by sending a brief ‘hello’ or note telling that person you are thinking of them.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this occasionally, and it always means so much to even get one line from someone, to know they are thinking of me. Better yet is the very occasional handwritten note - a rarity these days, but made all the more special because it is so rare!


Miranda has written me and thousands of others handwritten letters. A while ago I thought of sending her a note with her favourite writing pen, which we discovered one day is the same as mine (Pilot G-Tec-C4 - Ultra Fine 0.4mm). I wish I had done that. But I’m glad for the correspondence and connection we did have.


Miranda's letters become a thing to treasure now. There are strong traces of her, not just letters, around the world. She and Peter have had a true impact on all they met - the ripple effect travels far. Miranda is a bright shining star in the hearts and minds of all who met her.


To be on that beach in that moment was the most fitting and appropriate thing. A real gift in the light of such difficult news, because not only are they people that have helped me open up my eyes to the pink skies and the call of birds, but also to the goodness of the hands that have made them.

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