At the inquest this week, South Northumberland coroner Eric Armstrong said “This is a sad occasion for the family of PC Rathband and for all his former colleagues and those who knew him.”
Well, that’s the understatement of the century! I think for all of us who heard the tragic news of David Rathband’s death it was ‘a sad occasion’. In Eric’s defence, I reckon words struggle to convey the horror, grief, loss, terror, emptiness, regret, etc that family and friends must be going through, and indeed what David went through himself since July 2010.
Tributes have flooded in, “extraordinary brave man”, “a true hero”, “I want him remembered for his strength”.
I remember David Rathband’s first interview on BBC 5 Live, a couple of weeks after he was shot. At the time, to listen to him telling the story was spellbinding – the level of detachment, objectivity and accuracy of the statement displayed the excellence of his police trained recording skills. I also remember subsequent interviews as he narrated his journey – it was admirable, motivating, strong – a real inspiration. He was in control of his future – a role model, not just for dealing with horrific events that very few of us experience, but also dealing with life’s adversities that we all face.
So that was the public face, but the final tweets present a different story – One read: “Disaster. So job lost, eyes lost, family lost, wife lost, marriage lost. What a year.”
Tragically, that’s an equally accurate statement. His twin brother Darren was quoted as saying “He will never ask for help, and continues to try and display that he is coping. I tell you that he is broken and lonely in his world without light.”
Peter White from the BBC, himself blind, speaks of the ‘classic dichotomy’, wanting help in a tricky situation, but then requiring it to be offered so surreptitiously that nobody would notice.
High profile suicides seem to provoke national interest in ‘state of mind’, ‘could the signs have been identified’, ‘how could he have been helped’– all valuable and important areas to be addressed. But I think that there are lessons to be learned closer to home, closer to the way we all tackle the challenges that life presents us with.
It would appear that David was increasingly trapped into both a public ‘complete’ image and a private ‘broken’ one. A person who is ‘strong’ and a self that is ‘weak’.
I may like my public ‘strong’ person more than my ‘weak’ self, many of us do. However, if I ever believed in and relied on that ‘false self’ – I’m going to be in deep trouble.
St Paul said enigmatically “It is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10) within the context of what he called the “folly” of the crucifixion of Jesus.
Here’s an admission – I am not a strong man – I just have a few strengths. I think you’re probably the same (well, you might have to substitute ‘woman’ to make total sense of that!). Not having to ‘be’ strong is perhaps a lesser responsibility to live up to, more about giving up control rather than taking control.
Paul says elsewhere in that passage, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. So maybe if I don’t need to be CEO of Mike Jowett plc, maybe Someone Else will step in, with a bit more power to run the company better than me?
So, may you celebrate your strengths
May you reach out for help in your weakness
May you weep in your pain without shame
And may that pain be transformed by the Grace of God
so that you don’t transmit it to others in bitterness
or translate it back to yourself in punishment.
And may you feel truly at peace in your True Self