There is a tragic inevitability about living next to a mine, any kind of mine. There’s the old man in the corner of the room at Christmas who sips his drink tentatively, afraid to gulp too much beer and not enough air. He’s actually not that old, not old enough to retire, but his face clings to the inevitability of death and the unpredictability of breathing. He comments wryly that there’s more air in the beer than will ever enter his lungs. His lungs are shot.
Then there’s the mine closure – not economic they said, too much cheap coal from China to make it worth their while keeping open the doors; risking lives for the thin pickings clinging on the seams. The day they close it down, the kids don’t go to school, all except me, because my daddy didn’t work the mine, he worked in the ship yard close by.
Then there’s the shaft collapse, the wait at the gaping hole for the ground to give up its dead, a parody of a resurrection – giving the dead back to the living.
Then there is a day like today. Those who have clung to hope, in one brief moment have their hands opened so to fall through the crevasse of grief. No one can accompany them to that depth. It is their raw descent, alone.
We who stand and watch paralysed on the margin can only pray for hope to return.