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Falling in

Emma Grey

“People have converged, en masse, to stand behind our family. Our strength increased because of it.”

I write this from a conference in Florida, where my husband’s international colleagues are honouring his contribution to their field. It’s been an incredibly emotional experience, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. 

An American academic asked me, at breakfast, whether I’d been getting much support. I raved about the people of Canberra and further afield in Australia, and how full of heart and help they have been. 

‘They’re falling in behind you,’ she said (I’m at a military history conference, so the military term made sense). 

And that’s exactly how it has felt. People have converged, en masse, to stand behind our family. Our strength increased because of it. 

She explained that architects redesigned evacuation stairwells following the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, because people didn’t behave the way experts had predicted. They didn’t rush to leave, saving themselves, as expected. They met the pace of the slowest member, pausing to help.

I love those scenes at the end of marathons where competitors stop to carry each other over the finish line. Even after putting so much into achieving something themselves, some people will abandon their own ambition and slow down to assist others.

There has been a lot of talk at this conference about Jeff’s contribution to his field, academically, but much more talk about his contribution to people’s lives, personally. It’s both aspects that we’ll be remembered for — our professional achievements and the personal impacts we make — but it’s the latter that lights people up. It’s the seemingly insignificant (at the time) acts of kindness and the profound sentences that we utter in moments of advice or encouragement that really change other people’s lives.    


Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

  • Marg

    I’m sorry but this article just doesn’t make sense as it gives no details of who Jeff was or is, or why he is being recognised or discussed.
    It has been edited by someone who didn’t proof read it properly. Or assumed people would know the info that was omitted.

    • Amanda Whitley

      Hi Marg

      The piece hasn’t actually been edited at all – it was published as provided by Emma. It does, however, assume that people have been following Emma’s weekly posts since Jeff’s passing around eight months ago (which many of our audience have).


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