Saturday 22 October 2016

If you make the walk from Darkness into Light, you will never walk alone again

Published 04/05/2015 | 02:30

From the dark of the night woods, we take to the quiet, still streets of the heritage town of Listowel, where the candles in every window will light our way.
From the dark of the night woods, we take to the quiet, still streets of the heritage town of Listowel, where the candles in every window will light our way.

Darkness into Light brings us on a spiritual journey of hope and remembrance. We will join those who went before us as we remember loved ones who surely walk with us.

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The gathering in Listowel, Kerry, on Saturday is a coming together of bodies and souls. The community of friends will meet up at the Parade Ring in Listowel racecourse.

We will start out in the darkest of the night, as we walk all along the banks of the silver River Feale.

The friends will cross the Island Bridge and continue on our journey past the towers of the 13th century Desmond Castle and into the town square of dreaming spires and elegant lines.

On with us, then, down to the old oak woods of the Cow's Lawn, where writers walked to clear the head and begin new imaginings.

Friends who have lost loved ones will light the way with little yellow night lights of remembrance. The walk is one of soft talk and whispers. Of love and memories. There's a healing here and a helping too. From the dark of the night woods, we take to the quiet, still streets of the heritage town of Listowel, where the candles in every window will light our way.

Back then with us, over the Greenville Bridge to the racecourse, where we all started out, for tea and talk. The two bridges have been crossed. The circle is complete and unbroken. We welcome in the dawn's first rays on this day of love, hope and renewal.

Some 80,000 people will walk for Pieta House all over Ireland and in Sydney and New York.

It's the first year in New York. Our emigrants are often lonely and without the security of the green card or citizenship. There will be a Pieta House opening in New York very soon and the plan is to extend the Pieta care to several more cities in the States. There's a walk in Killarney, where thousands will show their faith in the cause and in Dingle too, where the good people of the west are hosting their first Darkness into Light event.

Pieta was founded by Joan Freeman when she lost a loved one. Joan took a step back as chief executive last year and now she is an ambassador who travels Ireland and beyond as part of her mission to help out. We are old friends. Joan loves people and she's a born communicator. There's a grace about her and the feeling that she knows our frailties but loves us all just as much. Some civilizations and religions believe the eyes mirror the soul. More claim the eyes are the gateways to the soul.

Joan has empathy in her eyes.

Cora O' Brien is our Listowel leader. She rules in a very easygoing way but the job gets done. There's a template there for many big companies who seem to think that just short of bullying brings the best results out of their employees.

Cora has the moral authority, you see. For our Cora lost her 16-year-old David to suicide. I knew him well and he was a lovely lad. Cora's husband, Martin, gets stuck in too and he helped in no small way with the setting up of the New York walk.

Martin and Cora turned their worst day in to some of the best. They had their own Darkness into Light journey. They got all of us together and a few years ago, on a cracked June evening, we broke the world record for the most people dressed as nuns with all the money raised going to Pieta. And yes, it is true. I gave an old GAA cup as the first prize for the best Nunderwear. You can register online and we will be in Mac Auliffe's Gift shop from Monday to Friday, here in Church Street, in Listowel.

We will pass the old graveyard and candles on the wall will keep the departed on our side. The walk goes by a place where a boy died by suicide. I always say a prayer for him on my walks, and hope he will find some comfort from our passing by the place where his life ended so tragically. I believe that by walking as one, we somehow ease the pain of those who died by suicide and that the spirits of the lost ones rest easier. I have no proof. It's just what I believe and that belief is the only way I can make sense of the taking of precious lives. The lost become found and the coming together of all of us gives great comfort.

Our walk then, is a journey of the spirit and the spirits walk beside us.

The aching I'm feeling this morning for a friend I lost many years ago is tough to handle. I often feel I could have done more back then. I should have seen the signs, but I didn't. I should have been less caught up in my own troubles. I should have taken just a few seconds to tell him he was the most caring and kindest of people. Sometimes, that's all it takes.

I wish the me now, even with all my imperfections, could have been there for my friend back then. The only way I can ease the pain is by walking on Pieta night and by passing on my story to you in the hope you might spread the kind word. So many suffer from a suicide. The fallout is nuclear for family and friends.

I must stress the column is just a personal view. I have no training in all this, but Pieta does. Pieta has opened up in Tralee just recently and there are Pietas all over the country. The Kerry Pieta home is in Moyderwell and there is no more welcoming place. Joan has always seen Pieta as a home. An open house where our friends feel free to open up. Pieta is easy to access. The counselling is free and you will be seen in a few days.

The counsellors are trained and Pieta has years of experience in dealing with self-harm and those who are suicidal. They will help you get better. There's a cure there for sure. And no one judges.

Pieta is a place of candles and sofas and flowers, with tea, biscuits and much love. You will be made so welcome and as we often say here, if the good times didn't last forever, then neither will the bad. This too shall pass. And if you walk with us, from the Darkness into Light, never again will you walk alone. Love and hope are only a step away.

Irish Independent

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