During lockdown when we were constrained to our 5 km radius I was walking daily to keep sane. Occasionally I’d walk alone but more often than not I would walk with good company. On one such walk, my friend confesses to me, “JenDen, I looked at that Tic Tok Video of the person committing suicide.”
It had been a while since that incident and I went into engineer mode about the how and where before I got to the why. I was too shocked and scared to go down the why route.
My friend explains, “It was difficult to find, it has been taken off Tic Tok where it originally featured but if you put it into certain search engines it's still on the internet.”
I frame my next round of questions to ease me into the braving why. “Can you unsee that kind of tragedy? Are you haunted?”
Her response was ‘’It’s the screen, I can desensitise to the reality of it.’’
I’m distraught for her. In my mind, she had experienced trauma. Before I had time to rationalise any emotional reaction, the conversation has moved on and we are now howling about something else that our incredibly mad world had got to offer.
Before our walk had ended, a dead fox lay across our path. A car had clipped it and zapped the life out of it without obvious injury. It looked like a cuddly toy, its beauty still apparent, nothing hurtful on show. I can hurdle the fox, but my mate, she cannot. The sight is too sad and upsetting and we have to cross the road to get around it.
My brain is in non-compute mode. You watched a human take their life on a live video but you can't step over some roadkill. I decide there and then not to overthink this. We all have different levels of being able to disconnect and this person I know so well is the kindest, most loving soul.
Two weeks later, I’m on a walk with the kids and we see a dead fox on the railway tracks. A scabby fox, that has been thumped by steel is unceremoniously lying between the tracks with its body mangled and final suffering on full show.
More weeks pass and my eldest is still thinking about the image of this dead fox. ‘What can be done to protect foxes Mummy?’.
In my infinite lack of wisdom I decide to share a story about how accidents happen and what he can do is never place himself in the path of a train or a car. Oh god, I'm doing that worst-case scenario thing. I start a new approach to appease his mind by explaining what people do at stations to encourage wildlife to have a lovely time as they pass through and how stations are designed with exit routes in mind.
He’s still thinking more can be done. All of a sudden I recall an old memory buried deep in my mind that I have not thought of for a long while. I start the story without really thinking about the ending. I tell him about the bunny rabbit that I wanted to save at a train station when I was around his age. I had alerted the platform manager and they shrugged and said ‘Sorry luv, nothing we can do to stop the trains. But fear not, the vibrations down the line will almost definitely alert the bunny and it will move out of the way’.
I shared how I had been distraught and dismayed at their lack of effort to increase the bunny’s probability of survival to 100%. I explain, as you get older you’ll understand that the world is designed as best it can be to protect people and wildlife and it is important to learn to navigate and influence our built environment.
I thought this would be a good story about nature and design and he just turned to me and said, ‘Mummy, would they have stopped the train for a person?’.
I said ‘yes of course’ and he looked me in the eye and said, ‘well you should have got down and saved the bunny’
We've not discussed the foxes since.