Hold on, cling on, but stay with us because this too shall pass
Published 02/05/2016 | 02:30
Somehow, by some sort of miracle of hope and love, our friends Cora and Martin O'Brien bring back David every day in their own way. David died by suicide in December 2007. He was 17. And here is part of the story of how his parents rebuilt their lives.
David's spirit keeps us all going and the memory of a young boy's angelic smile stays forever in my mind. I know how hard it is when it seems as if the world isn't made for you and the mind is a whirlwind of cataclysmic thoughts, but this too shall pass. Hold on, cling on if you must, but stay with us. The love is all around us and when the darkness turns into light, you will know where to look.
There's support if you need it. The Pieta houses that Martin and Cora support are all over Ireland now.
The sessions are free and there is hardly any waiting list. If your problem is acutely urgent, the Samaritans are only a call away.
There is no shame or stigma any more. There is hardly a person reading this who has not suffered a crisis.
So much has been written of heroes and of deeds of valour from years ago. The O'Briens and many more like them live a quiet, understated sort of heroism.
Last week, 80,000 people witnessed the magnificent GAA pageant honouring the Rising.
Yet next Saturday, thousands are marching for another great cause and it's every bit as heroic and historic.
Our revolution in Pieta House is also a rising of the spirit and is a fight for the lives of our people.
Every now and then, Cora and myself meet up for breakfast. She is usually dressed up in her "going to Mass clothes", as I call them. We have a good laugh. But then some mornings there is a text or someone who doesn't know us blurts out the news of a death by suicide.
We do not need to speak. We read each other's thoughts. Every death hurts and every life is so precious. Lost are all those stories still untold and gone are all those future moments of great joy and happiness that will definitely come along organically when the storm passes.
There are others who do their bit. Mags and Liz own the Finesse Bridal Boutique in Listowel and they are two gas women. Mags is the chairperson for the Listowel Darkness Into Light Walk. She makes sure we do our work, but with some fun. Mags writes out lists for me and keeps copies. There's no escape. Mags is worse than a wife.
One of our committee, who lost a loved one, decorates the tall trees with candles in the whispering woods of our town park known as The Cows' Lawn.
We will walk past a tree where many years ago another young man died by suicide. I always say a prayer wrapped in a long sigh.
Pieta is open now in Tralee. There is no more welcoming house of love and hope. And this year, for the first time, thousands will march from the Darkness Into Light in our county town. So proud of you Tralee and Cahersiveen too, where my lovely cousins will stroll Over The Water without getting their feet wet. Go and it will all become clear.
The silence and the dignity and the coming together will stay with you forever.
Dingle by the sea and Killarney by the lakes back up Pieta. Thousands walk in Killarney, where it all started off here in Kerry.
Martin, who lived in New York, asked Jimmy Deenihan, the Diaspora Minister, for help. Money was made available. Deenihan worked hard on the ground. So too did Joan Freeman. For months. But it was Martin who carried the day.
He was an emigrant, one of their own. And they always back their own in New York when trouble comes along.
Martin was in a school last week and I'm with him as wingman.
"Please, lads," he says, "Come on to Lishthole for our walk." He says it as I wrote it, in a strong north Kerry accent.
Then Martin, as he leaves, goes: "Thanks, guys." We give him an awful doing for his Americana. But he's half-New York, half-Kerry. There's a Pieta House in New York now. He'll eat me alive for this. Martin is a quiet hero.
Cora is full of talk. There's a reason she's all dressed up in her Sunday best on week days. Cora went back to college a few years after David had passed. She practises as a counsellor here in Listowel. Most mornings, though, Cora heads off to Tralee. I thought it might be too much for Cora, that her work might bring back too many painful memories. But she's resilient, calm and very smart.
Cora O'Brien counsels those who need care and love at Pieta House.
In the name of David.