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13 July 2012

Weeping for Eva as the news goes on…

Weeping for Eva as the news goes on…

Do you feel overwhelmed by our 24 hour news culture? Do some stories cause you to stop, slow down, and even shed a few tears? Our attention is arrested by the big stories; we partially digest them and move on to the next one fed to us by the news and media apparatus. Last week it was the Higgs Boson (the so-called God particle) and the Barclays boss that saturated the headlines. No doubt both will have profound reverberations in the weeks and years to come. And the news goes on.

It was the story of Eva that arrested me. Her tragic news was captured on the front pages of The Guardian and the London Evening Standard. The captions poignantly expressed the family misfortune: 'Heir to Tetra Pak fortune arrested as his wife is found dead at their home'. Behind Eva's smiles, opulence, powerful social and royal connections (Prince Charles was a friend) here was a woman, a mother and a wife battling with her own personal demons of drug addiction, despair and desolation. Feeling that she had descended into "a deep hole" of drug addiction, she said she wanted to find: "a constructive way of using my time, enlarging my life". Sadly, Eva never got the opportunity. Her body was found in their luxurious five-story house in Cadogan Place in Belgravia, one of London's most expensive areas. And the discovery was only made after police arrested her husband, Hans Kristian Rausing (heir to the fortune of his father, ranked by Forbes in 2010 as the 64th richest man in the world), earlier in the week, for driving erratically and subsequently having his home searched for drugs. 

One wonders how Eva's life might have been different. You empathetically try to put yourself in Eva's shoes and think how you might have done things differently. You ruminate on how you would have used your multi-million fortune to enrich the lives of others and those you love. And there are always those who are so sure of themselves and their power of resilience, and how they would respond to the vicissitudes of life, that they boldly proclaim: "If I had all that amount of money I would never come to such a tragic end." Powerful people indeed. However, most of us might be content to admit as John Bradford did: there, but for the grace of God, goes I.

Eva was a tremendous philanthropist. It is estimated that she gave over £150 million to charity. When she was arrested after trying to smuggle crack cocaine and other banned substances into a party at the US Embassy in London in 2008, it was said that Prince Charles said that she should be given a "second chance". And everyone needs a second chance; some of us need it every day, every week (Matthew 18:21-22). 

I was particularly struck by the simple things Eva so much wanted – to use her time constructively and to enlarge her life. Whether we call it contentment or flow (as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi termed it in his book with the same title on how to achieve happiness), we all need to find new and creative ways to use our time constructively, enlarging and enhancing our lives and the lives of others as we accept and wrestle with the promise and presence of abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).   

I wonder (and it's the kind of question we can't but ask) if Eva would have preferred a life with a lot less money and a lot more peace and joy. Although it's possible to have both, I think I know what the answer is, ultimately. Eva's friend left a flower outside her house to remember her. And the news goes on… 

Dr R. David Muir, Director, Faith in Britain