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Why is Phil Hughes death so hard to process?

Our own definitions of beautiful

I’m a cricketer and an educator – not necessarily in that order.

As the former, it’s been a sad and confusing week. The death of 25 year old cricketing prodigy Phil Hughes has deeply shaken every cricketer that I’ve met and spoken to. It’s not just that a young man has died, as we know that young people die daily both locally and globally. It’s how it happened that has impacted with such force.

How does a young man die playing a beautiful game like cricket?

The best moments stand alone.

I think that’s what has struck me this past week – the beauty of my sport. Despite being 42 years old now and well past any semblance of my best matches, I still play. I’ve infected my 10 year old son with the same cricketing virus.

I hit a six on Saturday (this is no story of personal success as I was out a short time later for a paltry 18 in a team loss). But there was beauty in that six. A brief millisecond of time where I alone know what has happened and nobody else does. They need to wait and watch a moment longer to see where the ball will go – I already know. Hughes’ fate was decided in the preceding millisecond – the closest moment to the best one.

The moment I speak of is beautiful for me because of its singularity. It’s a solitary moment, where consistent thoughts that we all wrestle with like work, home, money, career, children and life just can’t pervade. There’s no room for those thoughts.  Only the beautiful thought that I had hit the middle of the willow.

That’s beauty to me. Singularity.

The beauty all around us.

I’ve come to realize that my motivation for being an educator is also fuelled by those singular moments. Moments where we connect with troubled students, highlight unimaginable individual achievements and exceed expectations with our colleagues. We seize the chance to reflect on students who put their heads down and tried – when they didn’t have to. And so we should.

In these instances, there’s no room for report writing, for exams, for overdue homework or for pressure to perform. There’s just the singular, beautiful joy of connection and growth.

That’s beauty to me.

Despite being tired and the reality that we’re viewing work through the lens of a well-earned imminent Summer break, there are immense opportunities for singular beautiful moments in our schools at this time of year through graduation ceremonies and Christmas parties. My advice, in a selfish moment of reflection, is that we both cultivate and actively engage with these moments.

This Christmas, one Australian family and one Australian team will be denied the beautiful moments they cherished with Phil Hughes.

My wish for you all is that we scoop up the beautiful moments in our schools and our lives before we can regret taking them for granted.