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The patches of love that helped heal my aching heart

The patches of love that helped heal my aching heart

At my lowest ebb, it was the comfort of strangers that kept me going.

Meeting the people from Elton’s world, outside of our circle, was one of the biggest patches of love I didn’t know I needed.

In the days when bicycle tyres still came with inner tubes, I inherited a bike from one of my mom’s employers.

The boy who rode it before me had ridden through a patch of spiky palm fronds. That was how I got the bike.

My dad patched the punctured inner tubes with a product called “Patch and Solution”. I had years of happy adventures on that bike. I had many punctures too, but Patch and Solution always came to the rescue.

Last year, I learned about the healing powers of another kind of patch. The patches of love that embrace you when your life falls apart.

From the moment the paramedics declared my husband’s time of death and my knees gave out under me, family and friends mobilised, as societal norms dictate. But there were so many faces and gestures I did not expect.

Elton was the most unassuming, reticent, private and kind man I knew. I knew the people we knew would step up, but I was not prepared for the outpouring of love from people Elton touched with his kindness and quiet presence.

There were people I only vaguely knew. People I had only heard of via Elton. People I didn’t think would remember or want to honour him with their special memories.

The memories they shared of Elton were so comforting. The fellow carpoolers and the extramural parents and grandparents remembered the gentle man who always supported his son and his teammates and encouraged every single child.

Meeting the people from Elton’s world, outside of our circle, was one of the biggest patches of love I didn’t know I needed.

I always worried about him being the only dad in the carpool or extramural squad, with all the mommies and grannies. I tried to engineer some dads to connect with him.

But my husband was a great judge of character. There were certain dads he clicked with, without my interference.

I am an obsessive overthinker. I always felt bad that I was at the office with colleagues, while in my head he was alone with the mother hens.

I was supremely grateful when I realised, after his death, that my husband had his own little community that he had built in his own unassuming way.

People I didn’t even know that well, who loved and supported him, when I thought he had no one.

This is in no way me trying to diminish the love and support of our “known village”. I always knew they would step in. They were there with us on the brutal ride that was Elton’s illness, and I knew they would be there at our lowest low.

But getting to know the unique community Elton created outside of our circle made me realise we were not the only ones who thought he was the bee’s knees.

Total strangers remembered him from seeing him at sports fields with our son. He made such a huge impression that to this day, many months later, I am still receiving belated condolences.

It’s been such a glorious glimpse into a community I had no idea existed. It’s a type of comfort I cannot describe.

While I was fretting about Elton being a lonely Johnny no-mates, he had built his community from long hours in the car and long hours on the field, sharing sunscreen and water and snacks when someone forgot theirs.

There were so many lovely stories my husband’s community shared with me when they came to pay their respects.

Our inner circle patched the big holes and kept me standing. But when the meal-trains and flowers stopped coming, it was the small patches of love from Elton’s community that fortified me and kept me going.

Rochelle Barrish

Change expert, Rochelle Barrish, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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