This is my brother, Charlie. In my mind, he is still 8 years old, but in real life, he is actually an anaesthetist, specialising in intensive care, in hospitals around South West England. He has given me permission to write about what happened today when he met Esther (pictured with him) at the deli counter of Fortnum & Masons in London.
A few years ago, Esther was rushed into A&E with an emergency brain haemorrhage. The moments in the ambulance and the hospital were the most vulnerable and frightening of her life and, once she was back on her feet, she began to honour her cultural tradition of thanking the parents of the person who had saved her life. She assumed she would not be able to track down any of the doctors and nurses who had helped her that day, as London is a huge sprawling city with millions of people and ever-changing hospital staff rotors. So she just began to thank them in her heart, soul to soul.
But then one day, she got chatting to my eccentric dad, who likes to visit her deli counter to buy scotch eggs. And while he buys scotch eggs, he rather enjoys a chat. In fact, he enjoys a chat whatever he is doing. On this day, he saw that Esther's colleagues were welcoming her back from what seemed like a big life event. That's how he found out that she had survived a near-fatal brain haemorrhage and that she had been admitted to Chelsea & Westminster hospital, where my brother had been working at the time.
He mentioned it to my brother, who immediately remembered Esther and her husband. He had admitted and assessed her when she came in and referred her to the neurosurgeon. I always feel so glad for people who get to experience my brother's calm, kind presence and enormous expertise, especially in those moments of shock and trauma.
And so, we put the pieces together and my dad was able to introduce Esther to one of the doctors who had been on duty that evening. She was beside herself and has sent him large bottles of olive oil and champagne every year ever since. And he always gets a serious welcome when he visits deli counter. And, of course, Esther was able to write a letter to thank my mum and dad for having brought Charlie into the world, the most important part of the tradition she wanted to uphold.
And today I got to meet Esther for the first time and my brother was with us so I took this picture of them together. I have just emailed it to her husband, Lionel, so that she has a copy. I imagine it will be on her wall by this evening.
Isn't this just the most amazing example of how we find each other against the 'odds of the world' and how, if we really want to extend gratitude, it can happen? And how someone with a big, open heart with gratitude that wants to be expressed can find its way just through pure force and hugeness?
My brother, Charlie, made it very clear to me that he was only one of many people who helped Esther in her frightened hours that day but even he has to admit that this is seriously very amazing. How often do the tireless, committed doctors and nurses in our health system get to see if their patients even survive, let alone get hugged and adored and sent olive oil in gratitude?
So I am sharing this small, enormous, miraculous, simple, beautiful moment with you because meetings like this remind me that Love is leading us around and connecting us and guiding us.
I love everyday miracles that happen right under our noses; they are my favourite kind.
And the moral of the story for me is that we must always talk to people, take an interest in their lives, listen carefully with our whole hearts to the moments they choose to share with us, whether they are delivering our letters, serving us food or have come here to be our precious children or partners. Because it is through connection and love and kindness and real listening that these miracles get to be unearthed.
<3 <3 <3