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Life’s losses and gains


Life’s losses and gains

Jane Stephens offers some wise perspective as she ponders the lost and found items (and people) of our everyday lives.

Losses can cause pain to the brain and dig holes in the soul. Big ones such as the death of a loved one or a  sudden redundancy can ache and gnaw. Even small ones – misplaced keys or forgetting the promised salad at a picnic – can really throw out a day.

Imagine, then, losing a person’s mortal remains. This occurred recently, leading to one of Queensland Police’s more unusual media releases: ‘Noosa Heads Police are searching for the rightful owner of property that was located on the Park Boardwalk on Noosa Parade at Noosa Heads on October 1. The item is described as a box containing unknown ashes. If this item of property belongs to you, please contact Noosa Heads Police Station’.

A box of human ashes, not yet at rest, puts into the pale the lot of the parent who lost one of their toddler’s sandals (inevitably, it is only one) at Pierce Park the same week.

It makes that missing email containing tickets you bought months ago seem less consequential.

But there was more that week, with another police media alert dealing with another kind of loss. A 52-year-old woman was fined $309 after she lost her load: a ladder from a trailer she was towing on the Scenic Rim. To make matters worse, a motorcycle cop noticed the ladder was loose and was on her tail when the ladder fell, narrowly missing him. As the woman experienced, losses can compound: loss of ladder, plus loss of face, plus loss of money from her bank account.

But sometimes people are desperate to experience a loss: those kilos that hang on like a limpet on a rock; the telemarketer who rings at dinnertime; or the ute driver who sits too close on the motorway. Such imposts should just go get good and lost.

Sometimes lost things are seemingly waiting to be found: the discovery of a long-lost earring on the eve of a special dinner; the Christmas biscuit cutter found lodged behind a drawer just as the yuletide season looms; a favourite childhood book located in the bottom of a box just in time for a grandchild’s arrival.

My favourite is putting a hand in a jeans pocket and finding that what feels like a receipt is actually a $20 note.

Losses certainly can have a ripple effect. After all, when we are eventually lost to the world, all people are remembered by what they leave behind.


Jane Stephens is a USC journalism lecturer, media commentator and writer.

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