Last Thursday I attended an event to mark 30 years of a wonderful charity called Cruse Bereavement Care. As its name implies, it provides counselling for those facing the death of a loved one. The TV and radio presenter Anne Diamond spoke at the event. It was a fascinating and enthralling talk because she spoke so frankly about her own experience of losing a child to sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death as it is sometimes known. When her four month old son died inexplicably 25 years ago her experience would have been happening to, on average, three other sets of parents on that dreadful day. 2500 babies died each year in Britain. That number dropped dramatically over night following her campaign to encourage babies to be put to sleep on their backs rather than on their stomachs. Using data collated in New Zealand she eventually got the Government of the day here to launch a massive public information campaign. The number of cot deaths has now dropped to just 300 a year. Each of those is, of course, a terrible tragedy for every family but the fact that around 2100 families are not having that experience is such a wonderful legacy of her tragedy.
On Monday I was the starter at the Crafty Craft Race on the canal at Kintbury. This annual event raises funds for good causes and is a wacky, fun-filled event full of English eccentricity. A group of young people had entered three crafts in the race. They were dressed just as outrageously as all the others and were having just as many laughs but one got the sense that there was beneath it all a more serious purpose. They were all friends of James Ballantyne, a lad from Hungerford who was killed last year in a car accident. His friends have set up a fund to support and encourage young engineers like James. The James Ballantyne Memorial Fund is way for people to channel their grief so some positives can be gained from tragedy. Their story, like Anne Diamond’s, was one which can never fill the hole in their lives but is still an example of triumph coming out of adversity.