Friday, 8 June 2018

What Makes Us Cry?

I'm not much of a crier. I very rarely cry in movies or at funerals. Like many others, I used to tear up at those old Telecom ads where the ancient Mediterranean grandma finally hears from her offspring over the ocean. The combination of the visuals, the music, the sentiment, all combined to do me in - but it was momentary.
I didn't cry at the funerals of either of my parents although I was infinitely sad for each of them respectively, that they hadn't had easier, fuller lives and that I hadn't made more of my time with both of them. But that's regret isn't it, a different state of mind that sits, quiet and heavy, in our hearts.
When my brother took his own life rather than spend 6 or 8 more hopeless weeks dying of cancer I was, more than anything else, immensely proud of him. At the funeral what made me cry, helplessly, was the sight of hundreds of his workmates standing outside the church, still in their work clothes, arms akimbo, many with the tracks of unfamiliar tears on their cheeks. Odd the things that get to you. Generally I navigate the sad things in life with anger, regret or a weighty acceptance that that's Life, as Ole Blue Eyes would have us believe.
So why then, when I read on Twitter last night about the sudden death of a little West Highland terrier from Marsden, England, did tears fill my eyes and flow, unbidden, like streams down my face?
I'd never met Busby Watson but I knew a bit about him. I knew that he was immensely loved by his folks, that he often accompanied his dad to a certain cafe for breakfast on Saturdays where the owner gave Busby sossidges. The spelling alone used to make me laugh every time. I don't wish to appropriate the grief of his beloved 'hoomans', nor to use any of the hundreds of photos of Busby and his glorious walks around the Yorkshire countryside but you can see for yourself, if you wish, what an idyllic life Busby led.

I'd followed Busby on Twitter for several years and I know Twitter's not everyone's cup of tea. I have a number of friends who, if I mention Twitter in their presence, go all shifty-eyed, as if I've confessed to some shameful social gaff that doesn't bear thinking about. But on Twitter I follow any number of writers, readers, artists, photographers - and dogs. From the writers and readers I get loads of insights and information, funny, useful or amazing. From the artists and photographers I get instances of beauty from around the world. From the dogs I get to share that matchless privilege of observing the day-to- day doings of dogs and their besotted owners, across the globe.
So I knew a bit about Busby, mainly how unconditionally he was loved and how unexpected his death. I suppose the tears fell mostly for his owners and the grief they're going through.
I  saw the Twittersphere spring into action on the news of Busby's passing with messages of love and comfort from far and wide. Many of those would have known Buzzer personally, walked with him often, but others like me knew him only from a laptop screen.

I have other favourites of the canine variety - Benson the Springer spaniel from Canada, owned by a long distance runner, Ralphy from Dublin (just had an ear operation), Maisie & Maude, 2 Westies from Derbyshire whose mum raises thousands of pounds for the RSPCA in Britain. We lost the beautiful Callista a while back, a golden spaniel belonging to a nuclear theory physicist and her scientist/photographer husband in Ohio. That was an extremely sad day too.

Years ago I rang ABC talkback radio to raise the issue of the cruelty of sow stalls in pig farming. A man rang in immediately afterwards and berated me for caring about pigs (he fairly spat the word!) when there were so many other important issues in the world more deserving of my concern. The assumption, I guess, is that you can only care about one thing at a time.

But I do care about other things; I can grieve for the world and all its injustices. But right now what makes me sad is the loss of little Busby Watson. It makes me think of the vast inevitability of things, of enduring love and the end of a life, and I make no apologies to anyone for the tears that flow for his family way across the other side of the world, even though I've never laid eyes on any of them.
Go gently, Busby, and thank you for the joy you brought.


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