THE BLOG

Why Does It Take Heartbreak for Us to Fully Appreciate Our Loved Ones?

14/09/2015 16:58 BST | Updated 14/09/2016 10:12 BST

I witnessed a woman lose her mum last night.

I witnessed her break down in tears on a train as she sobbed and screamed down the phone. Her mum died while she was on the way to go and say goodbye.

I was sat on a train on Sunday night travelling back to my flat having been home for the weekend. As I sat down I wasn't feeling the happiest. I had to say bye to my boyfriend as I do most Sunday nights. I was tired and I didn't want to be travelling back as late as I was. I sat down and got out my book - The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin - in a bid to stop feeling so damn sorry for myself.

Two women got on the train, looking flustered and making it just in time before the train left. It was a slow stopping train, which was going to take over an hour.

I knew something was wrong as soon as they sat down. They discussed how they needed to be up north that evening but no trains were heading there after 8pm. I knew this too well as they were travelling to the city I went to uni in - Sunday night journeys back were always a nightmare. They had booked somewhere to stay half way and arranged to go up first thing the next morning.

Then one of the women's phone rang.

I witnessed her voice go from a trembling whisper to one with confidence. She told that person to be strong, but as she came off the phone she broke down in tears. I witnessed her girlfriend grab her hands and look her in the eyes. They held each other tightly. "Be brave," her girlfriend said.

Not long after they were discussing menial details about the woman's work, how she would tell her boss she wouldn't be at work the next day. It's strange how in times of suffering we think so logically, distracting ourselves from what really matters.

I was trying not to listen, trying to focus on my book but I couldn't. It was ironic, I was sat there staring at words on a page about happiness when someone's heart next to me was breaking.

There were periods of silence. They held each other and cried. At this point I had moved back to a seat further away to give them privacy.

But still I witnessed the calls she was getting, updating her on what was happening. Each phone call ended in tears, but only when she had hung up. Tears of sadness and tears of frustration, because the train kept heading through a tunnel, cutting off the call at the worst times.

She went through periods of sense-making, trying to ignore what was going on. She pondered small unrelated details such as the extortionate train fare. But I knew at that moment all she really cared about, all she really wanted was to be with her mum and it was heartbreaking to hear.

She panicked every time her phone rang, quickly clambering in her pocket to answer in a hurry. I could see other people in the carriage had also heard what was going on. Everyone looked solemn, wanting to help, but with no capacity to do so.

It was silent for the longest period. We were five minutes away from my stop. I prayed so hard her mum would be okay and she would make it. I hoped to God she would get there in the morning in time, kiss her mum and tell her she loved her.

Her ringtone broke the silence and she answered it. She let out a piercing scream and fell down in her chair sobbing, saying "she's gone" as her girlfriend grabbed the phone, engulfing her in her arms.

I looked over at another woman sat on the train also near enough to hear what happened. She had tears rolling down her face. I did too - I witnessed a woman lose her mother on a journey I expected to be just like any other on a Sunday night.

The train stopped and I got off. I froze when I stood on the platform. I didn't even know this woman. I didn't know her name and I barely saw her face. I was overcome with sadness and yet I felt guilty for my tears.

What right did I have to cry when everyone I loved was still in my life? Everyone I loved could be on the other end of the phone right that second.

I messaged my family and told them I loved them. I called my boyfriend, messaged my friends. I realised at that point what was really important.

Why does it take something so tragic to remind us who and what we should appreciate in life?