Belfast Telegraph

The logic of those scoffing at Gloria Hunniford leaves me cold

By Gail Walker

Sometimes it's hard to warm to humankind. It's not Gloria Hunniford's assertion that she receives white feathers from her late daughter Caron that astonishes me. Nor that after a car crash in France, she believes a mysterious young woman they could never trace who came to help her and her husband may have been a guardian angel.

No, it's the vitriol of the response to her touching and thought-provoking article.

"Might have been left by a bird! Just an idea!" is the witty response from one online Einstein to the feature Gloria penned at the weekend. Others snigger about how they are visited by fairies and unicorns. Or talk about pillow fights. Or tell Gloria to give it a rest.

What mirth. Could there be anything funnier than having a laugh at someone still a decade on bereft at the loss of her child and still stumbling down the long road of grief and acceptance?

It's crass, cruel and simply narrow-minded. Gloria Hunniford is not a loony tune. At 73, she has a thriving show business career – recently joining the cast of Loose Women. You don't survive that world for more than 40 years without a steely core, pragmatism and a large shot of realism. Having interviewed Gloria on numerous occasions, I can vouch for all those qualities.

Which makes the fact she goes public about such matters all the more compelling. She knows some people will regard her as a laughing stock, and that she'll get a kicking from those who use "reason" to club any one who dares to suggest there just might be things we don't fully understand.

But she'll also know there are many people who feel a frisson of recognition. All the more so because Gloria's own descriptions of such moments are infused with scepticism.

The narrative is one of a highly rational woman as bewildered as anyone else that such things could happen. That sometimes they reach such a pitch or occur at such a time that saying "Blimey, what an extraordinary coincidence!" just doesn't convince.

It's happened to me. And I know many others who would vouch for similar experiences. It might be a sense of "being warned" about a course of action. Or just not feeling alone when in extremis.

Why wouldn't a loved one who is no longer with you not help you – if they could? Who knows? If that is not possible, why wouldn't the accumulation of all the love you shared carry some power and resonance to talk you down, to keep you keeping on, to be that voice in your head?

I know people whom I would trust with my life who say they have seen ghosts. I simply couldn't doubt them. I wasn't there and they'd have no reason to lie.

A bit like Gloria, they tried to rationalise it... but in the end the only rational explanation was that they had seen a ghost. The person was dead. The person was walking up the street. The person nodded at them and they nodded back.

During One City One Book two years ago, I hosted an evening with the psychic Joanne Maguire. There was a huge crowd – a constituency of the bereaved, lonely, curious. But none of them looked or sounded insane or stupid. Many of their stories were not of apparitions; rather they spoke profoundly of bonds unsevered even by death.

More unsettling by far are those who use "reason" as a cudgel to bash those whose ideas of reality don't correspond with theirs – the basest sneer to ridicule the deepest needs of our hearts.

It's a popular jibe that having a religious faith leads to a closed mind. The real Flat Earthers are those who seek to explain away everything with logic, scoffing at the idea of an afterlife.

In our anti-religious age, it's easy to congratulate ourselves on our razor-sharp minds. But it seems strange how the sceptics only pick on ideas like God or Heaven. They appear less keen to confront those other metaphysical claims and beliefs that make our lives a little less stark: such as love, hope, humanity, kindness, self-sacrifice.

Let's see these masters of reason go home and tell their partners that they're pretty sure love is all down to the need to propagate, a matter of chemicals and social conventions.

The truth is that much of the sneering isn't based on a zeal for reason, but instead a need for psychological relief in belittling others.

Or maybe – lucky them – they have just never been bereaved. Never been swallowed alive or hollowed out by grief.

May you have many more feathers, Gloria.

Yes, scientific tests will show they come from birds, but you were never saying that they were from the wing of an angel.

It's all to do with the timing, the circumstance, the "what are the chances?"

And the logical conclusion? Much more likely that Caron was looking in than any other explanation.

I mean, why on Earth wouldn't she?

Follow me on Twitter: @GWalker9

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