It is unfortunate bad news gets lots of attention while good news usually gets much less.
Bad news gets delivered formally.
You get it in small scary offices with tissues on the desk.
It is given by people with long job titles and concerned, serious faces. It comes accompanied by paperwork and appointments. This is how people are told their disease is degenerative. This is how people are told they are being made redundant or that they aren’t pregnant. This is how parents are told their child has a condition that is certainly lifelong and could be grave.
Bad news is an event that brands dates onto the minds of those receiving it.
Good news is more of a process and easily slips unnoticed into the wash of life.
It starts with faint glimmers the worst case might not be the actual case – too faint to really trust or believe in. Then – like mountain rescue appearing from thick fog – it solidifies and becomes real. Eventually without anyone ever saying so the facts coalesce and becomes the truth; an undramatic all-clear letter. A negative test. The realisation you may never need to have a certain type of appointment again.
Good news is a message from a wife to a husband saying a daughter’s heart condition has improved to such an extent she might be discharged from cardiology.
We got this news on Friday and – well timed – on Sunday we celebrated with the Williams Syndrome Association Christmas Party.
On the dancefloor a man of about my age drew a spontaneous standing ovation from a hundred people with a dance to The Circle Of Life. A teenager flattered my wife by asking her to be his girlfriend. Our two little girls were delighted by Father Christmas presenting them with snuggly Koala Bear Hot Water Bottles. Everywhere we saw Bessie’s face in the faces of others with her condition – a look that makes them part of a family beyond those of their blood – a family familiar with hardship but filled with life and thrilled to see each other.
In the midst of this happy chaos and afterwards driving home in the snow I made space to think about our journey and how much we’ve all changed in the last few years.
When Bessie received her diagnosis I did not want any of this. Thinking of days like today was frightening.
I did not want to be a parent who had appointments with doctors and educational psychologists.
I did not want to do EHCPs or attend parties for people with genetic conditions.
I did not want this sort of life.
But I also did not know there would be great news and new interests and important new friendships. I did not know I would change and I would love the sort of parties we attended today.
There are still things I do not want to do and things I’d rather not have to deal with, but I know this to be true of everyone everywhere. More importantly I now know nobody gets to swap bits of a life for bits of other people’s lives and that were this even possible it would mean exchanging things I love beyond words for meaningless and immaterial hypotheticals.
Sunday was one of The Best Days. There will be Bad Days in the future but I cannot do anything about these.
They cannot even be predicted.
So I won’t try. Instead with inevitable human stumbles and ill-tempered frailty I will try to be vigilant for happiness and to mark it when it arrives. I will try to be ready for those moments when suddenly I realise this is it and it is happening now! I will try not to let the good news slip quietly into the night.
I will mark it.
At the party both my daughters wanted to dance.
There I was, as enthusiastic as I was clumsy, embarrassing and poorly co-ordinated. “First on the dancefloor! You’ve changed,” my wife said to me, laughing.
She’s right. I have and I am glad.