Caroline Flack has touched more lives than she can possibly have imagined
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015
The heartbreaking loss of Norfolk's most sparkling daughter prompted a lot of conversations among families at the weekend. How we all wish she was still here to be part of them....
Sometimes you hear a snippet of news that stops you in your tracks and that happened at the weekend.
My eldest child told me as we were driving home from a day out in Norwich while reading the news notifications that were coming up on my phone.
'The Love Island presenter has died, Mum. She was only 40.'
I felt my hands freeze on the steering wheel as my mind fast-forwarded all the details of a life we have read quite a lot about in the last few months.
I carried on staring straight ahead. 'Not Caroline Flack?' I said, with a sinking feeling, already sensing that this was exactly who it would be. And why.
Every story, every life must end of course, and every life is a life complete, even the very shortest ones. But Caroline's life? The feeling that it shouldn't have ended like this is inescapable.
She had achieved so much; shone so brightly. Her victory on Strictly Come Dancing in 2014 is imprinted on our brains; the joy in the face of a girl triumphant, as sparkling an evocation of her hard work and exceptional talent as the glitter on her dress, on her trophy and in her hair.
Caroline's life had gone wrong. There is no question about that. Our Norfolk Icarus seemed to have flown too close to the sun and she faced a trial that nobody, including the boyfriend she was said to have assaulted, felt it was necessary to pursue, apart from the CPS, who now stand accused in the court of public opinion of wanting a 'show trial'. We don't have the evidence in front of us so aren't in a position to make judgements on that, but regardless of what the facts of the case were, I hope those behind the decision to prosecute are thinking hard about what has happened and its heartbreaking consequences. Picking over it now won't change anything for Caroline but perhaps for someone else? She seemed like the kind of person who would have taken a bit of comfort in the possibility that others might be helped because of what happened to her.
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Caroline told Kathy Burke last year that work was so important to her she was always liable to put it before her relationships; that being single was often the strongest place to be. Watching that interview again at the weekend, I was struck by three things. How strong she seemed then. How likeable. And also that once her work was taken away, (she had had to stand down from Love Island pending the outcome of the trial), she would have been hit for six.
People are saying now that 'you never know what people are hiding behind the smile'. This is true. But it is true of all of us. Happiness and misery can turn on a dime. Take even one of our ducks out of the row and suddenly a life that seems to be full of promise and hope can feel as though you have nothing left to go on for.
The tragedy of course is that there always is something to go on for. Caroline suddenly found herself in too dark a place to be able to see that the light does come back in again if you sit tight and hold on a little longer. Those who loved her, those who cared, will surely be thinking now, if she had just got through that trial, maybe community service, a bit more bad press - but do you really have to read it? - and then, a little further along the way, someone would have given her another chance because life always does throw up new chances and having reached rock bottom, those new opportunities and small kindnesses that get you back on your feet are all the sweeter.
How we all wish she had known that.
But she didn't that day, though tomorrow she might have, because emotions rise and fall. And that is so desperately sad and such a great loss of what had largely, and would again have been, a wonderful life.
So I said to my children in the car on the way home from Norwich, "However bad things get, remember that things will get better, though sometimes it won't seem as though they will. Taking your life is never the right decision, it never can be, because suicide doesn't just break you, it breaks everyone who loves you. While even the toughest problems can be fixed eventually, suicide can't be. And living in a world where something is unfixable is so very very difficult to bear."
Conversations like that, conversations about difficult subjects between parents and children that would never have happened without Caroline, were taking place all over the country at the weekend.
Others were talking about the cruelty of social media, the excesses of the press, the importance of being kind. All important. All borne out of our need, as fellow human beings, to make sense of and find meaning in a tragedy that suddenly feels too heartbreaking to carry on our own.
Hopefully, the world will now be a little wiser in all these ways because of Caroline. She will be a symbol in so many positive ways.
But she didn't have to die for that. How I wish she hadn't felt that she had to make that choice.
Because, really, there was no one in the world of any consequence who didn't want her to remain a living, breathing daughter, sister and friend. And while we, who only knew her as a star in our firmament, walk on a little stronger because of the lessons she has taught us, I hope her story will, in this very moment, be reaching out to anyone else who is in that dark place right now, and reminding them that when you're gone, there is only the love left over, that could have carried you onward, but without you, has no place left to go.
If this is you, please contact The Samaritans on 116 123 or at www.samaritans.org