Yesterday my mother led a funeral.
This is not an unusual occurrence. In my house, it has been common since I was thirteen. I am accustomed to death in general, being as I am an archaeologist. I also write about death and dying a lot in my fiction. It is a topic that is so familiar to me I actually find it odd when it doesn't creep into my work.
Death hasn't phased me for a very long time.
On July 17th the factory next to the Methodist Church in Bosley exploded. The blast, and the fire that followed, left many injured, three dead, and caused damage to neighbouring houses and the church.
The collective trauma as a result of this incident has been profound, and although I did not know those involved personally there is one person--who has been helping everyone in the aftermath--who I know incredibly well.
My mother is the minister of Bosley Methodist Church.
Yesterday's funeral was the first to be held for those who died in the Bosley explosion, and it is for this reason that I have, for the first time in years, found myself disturbed by death. Over the course of these last weeks I have cried, I have hoped, I have prayed, I have grieved.
And I'm not alone.
I have a rather unique perspective on this tragedy, not involved but on the periphery of it, and I have been overwhelmed by the sheer heroism of the residents of this village. In such a small community the fallout from an even such as this is catastrophic. Most people in Bosley are connected to at least one of those involved in the explosion, either through family or friends. They have been united by grief, and fear, and trauma, and yet that have not, in any way, been beaten. They have lost friends and family members. Many have lost their jobs. Some have lost their homes. Collectively they have all been in a state of shock, myself included. Yet I have been truly amazed by the outpouring of support, compassion, and aid in this little community.
It is in the small things that you see the greatest acts of kindness. Cakes baked for those awaiting news of loved ones, and for the fire and police services. They have had a horrendous time, and have been invaluable, with local departments supported by various other divisions, coming from far and wide to aid in the search and rescue operations. Fund raisers, organised by local churches and the surrounding community, to help raise money for The Bosley Disaster Appeal. Food, cooked in part to sustain people, but mainly as a simple gesture to show that others care. What stands out most in my mind are the endless flowers. Roses donated for the memorial Peace Garden that is to be planted at the Methodist Church. Prayers and messages tied to the Peace Tree. Candles lit in memory of those who are gone, and as beacons of light for those who remain. Even those who have been most affected by events have had time and concern for others, and people who have absolutely no connection to Bosley or the people involved have been just as troubled by events.
I remember in the early days after the blast, our house was simply inundated with flowers and messages of support. They came flooding in from everywhere, often with donations, many of which were for hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
People have been incredibly generous.
Yes, there has been trauma. There is the continued pain of those physically injured and grieving. There is the agony of revisiting events as the circumstances surrounding it are investigated. But there has come from this a deep-seated desire within the residents of Bosley to continue to build on the one positive thing to come from their experiences: their sense of community.
I am a writer of fantasy. I dream of dragons and knights, of heroes and heroines. I am aware that heroes exist in our world. They work in our hospitals, our police stations, our doctors' surgeries, our fire stations. I am also aware that everyday people are capable of extraordinary acts of heroism. I did not, however, ever expect to witness so much heroism in such a short space of time, or find so many wonderful heroes in such a small community.
Not in the real world at least.
Watching events unfold has been a harrowing experience. I can only imagine what it has been like for those directly involved. But it has also been enlightening, for it has given me a glimpse of what ordinary, everyday people are capable of doing for each other, and for complete strangers, in times of great need.
If I have one hope for the future, it is that we all remember that it shouldn't take something as tragic as the explosion at Bosley to inspire such community spirit.
Fundraising in Bosley is ongoing. For anyone wishing to make a donation cheques, made payable to The Bosley Disaster Appeal, can be sent to PO BOX 645, Macclesfield, SK10 9LU.
Hazel Butler is an author of Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction. Her debut novel, Chasing Azrael, is the first in a series of Dark Urban Fantasy Mysteries exploring themes of mental health, depression, and suicide. She also runs The Bookshine Bandit, providing freelance editing, proofreading, artistic, and coaching services to authors, and The Bipolar Bear, a personal blog detailing her experiences with Bipolar Disorder and mental illness.