A FRIEND of mine worked on the PR side of Shane McEntee's first and successful Dáil campaign in 2005. On the day that I learned of Mr McEntee's death my friend said that Shane was the nicest and kindest Irish politician he had ever known. At the graveside oration Taoiseach Enda Kenny looked visibly shaken and indeed I have heard from close associates of his that he is still shocked by Shane's death.
Over the years I have known people who have taken their own lives. I remember just after priestly ordination working in Germany getting to know a wonderful young German Dominican sister. The following year I was told that she had died of a heart attack but I later learned that she had taken her own life.
I have also known a number of priests, who have died by suicide - all terrible tragedies. Last week actor Joe Pantaliano was in Dublin highlighting all that can be done for people who suffer depression and may be thinking of taking their own lives. "The reason I came out to talk about it was because I was angry with the stigma and discrimination attached to it all," he said. Pantaliano told his audience in Dublin that he suffered in silence for over 50 years.
For most of us, the human mind is a mystery. We seldom if ever know what is going on in another person's head. Do we ever know what is going on in our won? Maybe it's my DNA, maybe it's my own inertia, maybe it's my own sloth, but I very easily give in to moaning and groaning and bemoaning my lot.
Only last week, driving from Kerry to Dublin, a woman said to me that my life is far better than I realise. Before I say another word, of course I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist or any sort of therapist and people who suffer clinical depression need to attend experts for healing, advice and medication. I imagine just like the rest of the human race, I get down, fed up, wonder why I ever took the path in life I chose.
Just last week I woke up one morning asking myself what in God's name was I doing being a priest. The day moved on and I got on with life, at least in my own tin pot way. In the week after Christmas a family with whom I am friendly came to Dublin for the day, Mum, Dad, three girls and a boy. Children are aged 14, 12, 10 and nine. It was mainly a treat for the three older girls. They wanted to come to Dublin to go shopping in a newly opened store on Dame Street.
I called them sometime after lunch and we met for coffee in the St Stephen's Green Centre. At that stage they were all sort of tired and shopping had not worked out as planned. Prices were high and in the end they really did not see anything that they wanted. I arrived on my motor bike so the gear was a source of some fun for a few seconds, especially for the little nine-year-old boy.
They had a few hours to spare before the departure of their return train so I suggested we take a stroll in St Stephen's Green. And we did that. They had never been in it before. It was something new for them. I pointed out a few things of interest. I think we all found it a pleasant walk. And then just before we were leaving, the children spotted a brown squirrel. They ran over to it and then naturally it darted up a tree. The excitement it caused. Their mother turned to me and said: "You know that's the highlight of the day". We all laughed.
These children live in the country, see animals every day. They come to Dublin to see the bright lights and yet it is a squirrel darting about a tree that makes the day for them. Of course we have to plan our lives. We have to get things done. There are important things to do. But I wonder do we all get lost from time to time in a world about us that may not be as important as we think.