I was driving along the coast road this morning when a dog bounded into the road just a few metres away from me.
Time froze, as the cliche goes. I braked hard. Hard enough that the seatbelt lock mechanism activated, and I remember feeling surprised by the sudden sense of being pinned to my seat as I steered frantically to avoid the dog, who just seemed to keep running directly into the path of my car.
I don’t know how I didn’t hit that dog, or crash my car in my effort to avoid it. I ended up on the wrong side of the road and by the time I lifted my eyes from the steering wheel to check for oncoming traffic I was already in tears.
The dog was nowhere to be seen.
Later I joked about how relieved I was that my last words to my kids that morning had been light-hearted ones, and how fortunate it was that it happened on a day when we had, at least, parted on laughing terms.
My kids are convinced the rogue beast was Sirius Black from Harry Potter, in the form of his dog, Snuffles, which also made me laugh later, too.
But before I started laughing about any of this, I found myself sitting in a car park trying to compose myself, listening to Doreen Lawrence (the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence) on the radio. She was being interviewed on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, and she spoke about the couple who found Stephen lying in the street, bleeding to death. The woman held his head in her hands and whispered in the ear of the dying boy, a stranger: ‘You are loved, you are loved.’
I was already a dithering wreck but when Doreen began talking about what that meant to her, I was in pieces. She described how we take children for granted and tend to believe they’ll always be there, but that when you lose a child you find yourself wondering if they really knew how much you loved them, and wishing that you had only told them more.
I don’t have a pithy conclusion to wrap this up but I plan to be much more vocal in telling my kids how much they are loved.