'Michaela was truly special and I was privileged to have known her'
Published 12/01/2011 | 05:00
I was listening to RTE radio in a manner that could never be replicated with television; I was conscious of the words flowing forth but yet busy in concentration on some other matter.
Suddenly two words resonated through the airwaves -- Michaela Harte -- and immediately they captured my full attention.
Before long I had the initial story about the tragedy that had befallen the young lady from Tyrone who lost her life while on honeymoon in Mauritius with her husband of less than two weeks, John McAreavey from Down.
To say that the news was heart-rending would be an understatement from anyone who ever had the privilege of meeting Michaela and getting even a glimmer of the wonderful human being she was.
I can say that I had the honour on many occasions over the past 15 years or thereabouts of talking to her and from the start she impressed me as somebody who was really special.
She always looked well, she smiled with ease and grace, smiles of inner happiness, she spoke in a friendly manner, mostly in the Irish language and never once can I recall her being other than positive and hopeful about the future.
I remember that she spoke to me in Irish on our first meeting and expressed her great interest in the language and of course in Gaelic football as well.
The latter was not difficult to understand because she was the daughter of Mickey Harte and football had been part of the Harte household for decades.
Michaela was always at Mickey's side at training sessions and at matches 'big and small' throughout the country.
Somehow I soon regarded her as almost a member of the teams managed by her father and it was obvious a very special bond existed between the pair.
To me that mutual understanding had many elements; and pride, faith and hope would be among them but above all loyalty to each other and the great 'cause' of Tyrone football.
Before long I began to believe that both were on a mission, one that would bring the county to the pinnacle of senior success in time. It is possible that the vision was hatched in Michaela's mind.
The Gaelic world is well aware of the great days that brought that to reality with Michaela ever a part of the 'team'. Without ever gloating over the fantastic successses she witnessed there was no doubting her admiration for the players who led the way and brought the Sam Maguire Cup to the county on three occasions.
Meanwhile, she had completed her third-level education in Saint Mary's College in Belfast and often told me about her good progress with the Irish language.
Soon she began her teaching career and quickly became popular with pupils, fellow teachers and parents alike.
The world appeared at her feet and her marriage to John was hailed far and wide. And then suddenly those words from the radio scattered sadness and disbelief throughout the country and beyond.
It must be completely beyond the ability of the Harte and McAreavey families to make sense of the sequence of events that led to the tragedy of the death of one so perfect as the Michaela that I was proud to call a friend.
Our sympathies go forth to them and if it's any consolation there were not too many humans over the ages with the characteristics that almost pre-ordained that heaven was made for such.
A few lines from a poem on the death of a young person by Padraig Pearse are appropriate.
'Ag gabháil an tsléibhe dom tráthnona,
Do labhair an éanlaith liom go brónach,
Labhair an naosc binn 'san crotach glórach,
Ag faisnéis dom gur éag mo stórach.
Brón ar an mbás ní féidir é shéanadh.
Leagann sé úr agus críon le chéile.
The words tell how nature, birds and all proclaim the sad news of the death of one so young. And how at times death treats both young and old with disdain.