Time to cherish those in our lives
Published 20/12/2015 | 02:30
The nation was deeply moved this year at the deaths of six bright young Irish students in an unspeakable moment of horror in Berkeley, California.
The deaths of Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Olivia Burke, Lorcan Miller, Ashley Donohoe and Niccolai Schuster, and the life-changing injuries endured by their seven friends were felt as a terrible loss in Irish homes with sons and daughters abroad and a long history of travel to the US on J1 visas.
The great hopes for six bright young people were extinguished in a split second.
As their families - and others who have lost loved ones this year - face their most difficult Christmas, it gives pause for thought about the true meaning of the season.
It is a most difficult time for so many coping with the loss of loved ones, whether that be in such sudden and tragic circumstances or for more predictable, if no less sad, reasons.
There are no words to truly comfort those effected. Only time and hope will help.
And Christmas is a time of hope. In Christian faith, that message of hope is intertwined with love.
John 3:16-17 says: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
God sent his son to save humanity, Christians believe. For those of other faiths and none, the message of love providing hope for the future remains a shining star for us all to follow at this time of year.
Though the days can be dark, we have hope. And we hope for comfort for those who have lost loved ones.
The many families who have lost loved ones this year would dearly love just one more Christmas together.
We must therefore also celebrate those gifts we have: the joy on a child's face when they are lucky enough to have a present under the Christmas tree from Santa Claus; the extra time we can spend together; the hugs for returning sons, daughters and siblings; the love between us all. Christmas is a time to try to pause and appreciate the people in our lives because we do not know where the future will bring them - or us.
As Miriam O'Callaghan writes so movingly this morning elsewhere in the newspaper: "With those we miss and have lost to death, there are no second chances."
Ireland has come a long way through a dark period and thankfully there is light on the horizon for 2016.
Many have enduring distress over that time but there is hope for the future.
The carol tells us of tidings of comfort and joy for Christmas.
Where there cannot be joy, let there at least be comfort.
A peaceful Christmas to all.