Tuesday 6 December 2016

A parent's grief shared by all

Published 21/06/2015 | 02:30

A HAUNTING LAMENT: The cortege halts as a lone piper plays ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ as the coffins of Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke, cousins and best friends,
were brought yesterday into the Church of St Joseph’s in Cotati, Sonoma County, California
A HAUNTING LAMENT: The cortege halts as a lone piper plays ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ as the coffins of Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke, cousins and best friends, were brought yesterday into the Church of St Joseph’s in Cotati, Sonoma County, California

It is said that when your parents die, you lose your past, when your spouse dies, you lose your present and when your child dies, you lose your future. If you lose a parent, you are an orphan; if you lose a spouse, you are a widow. But there is no word to describe what you are when you lose a child. How do you name something that you cannot comprehend?

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The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, captured something of the collective sense of loss felt by parents everywhere at the tragic deaths of six young people in Berkeley, California, on Tuesday. "When you look at the newspapers this morning," he said, "don't you see the faces of your own children, sons and daughters, at the start of a great adventure in life?"

From the published synopses of their short lives, it is evident that Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Ashley Donohoe were excited at the start of this summer to set off on a great adventure in the United States of America. Like 7,000 others this year, like 150,000 in the last 50 years, they participated in what has become a rite of passage, the J-1 visa programme, not just to learn from the world around them but also, it is clear from the testimonies of the people of Berkeley, to share in return, with open and smiling faces, the joy of their spirit and the exuberance and vitality of their existence.

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