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The inevitability of endings

By Dr Pat Harrold - 30th Mar 2024

inevitability of endings

Jurgen Klopp’s decision to leave Liverpool is a reminder that change is the one great constant of life

I knew the day had to come, but I suppose I tried, with success, to believe that it never would.

We have learned that the human brain is honed by evolution to be alert for danger, and to always seek the bad news first, just in case. This is why when our kid gets 19 questions right out of 20 in the math test, we ask what was the one they missed; and the headlines relentlessly give us the worst news first, wherever it happens. But we are equally good at pretending that the day will never come and the worst will never happen to us.

“History is a silent record of people who didn’t know when to leave,” says a character in Paul Lynch’s recent Booker-winning novel Prophet Song.

We are all like the passengers on the Titanic, leaning over the ship’s rails and plucking shards from the iceberg to plop in our drinks. It couldn’t happen to us.

“On with the dance, let joy be unconfined,” said Byron, who, even if he couldn’t dance with his talipes, knew how to party like there was no tomorrow and sure enough he ran out of his tomorrows too early.

Poor Byron, like Keats, and Shelley, died young and surely there is research to be done on why romantic poetry is bad for your health. Very few of them made old bones, except for Wordsworth who realised that exercise and green spaces are good for you centuries before the TILDA study.

Jurgen Klopp has made up his mind to retire. No longer will he lumber onto the pitch hugging exhausted, tattooed players from both sides to his enormous overcoat, his smile a beam of joy in the Anfield night. Logically, we knew it had to happen, but hoped it never would.

He got great results, of course; fewer than he and his team deserved, but many more than could be reasonably expected without a fossil-fueled bankroll. But that is not why he was special. Klopp had an aura of unwavering decency, and though he must have been tougher than he let on, he was a role model of kindness and fairness, and saved his aggression for officials and people in power.

I have seen many changes in my lifetime. If anything existed before you were born, you feel it will never change, yet alone leave. The Queen died. Damn few remembered a time before her reign. In retrospect somebody should have arranged an annual trip to the Cork fish market for her decades ago. But even she died and life went on. Paul McCartney and David Attenborough will die too. Fianna Fáil nearly died, but rallied and is now sitting up and taking nourishment.

Gay Byrne left The Late Late Show and then he too died. De Valera died. He died during the school holidays, which was typical as we were all looking forward to a couple of days off, but he was always dry and a spoilsport.

You can easily see good things in your future, but you are not sure about the bad things. I never really deep-down thought that the Leaving Cert would happen; my rational brain did, but my day-to-day mind felt it was just another thing to keep us quiet, like burning in hell for all eternity.

Just because it hasn’t happened before does not mean it won’t. The whole Covid-19 pandemic had an unreal aura, a feeling that this cannot be true. Some never came to terms with it: “It is only a cold, I’ve a good immune system/done my own research/yada yada.” It is not surprising many of those same people are climate change deniers: “Sure, it’ll be grand/Green spoilsports/we always had weather/we have to get real/Trump will do a great job.”

I will retire, or die, whichever comes first. The world will go on and someone else will see the patients and write the columns and walk the dog where I walk mine.

Klopp will head away. Liverpool will play on. They might even win more trophies, but without the goofy smile, the bearhugs, the sense that no matter how big the team got that they were always the underdogs who never parked the bus and always played to win. Thanks Jurgen. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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