Wednesday 15 August 2018

'I felt I wouldn't be able to function in the world without him' - Wife of man killed in hit-and-run

Eugene Maher’s widow, Marie, and daughter Lisa outside court in 2016. Picture: Collins
Eugene Maher’s widow, Marie, and daughter Lisa outside court in 2016. Picture: Collins
Credit: The Bridal Florist / Facebook

Sasha Brady

A florist has described how she was forced to rebuild her life after her husband of 37 years was killed in a hit-and-run accident.

Marie Maher's husband Eugene (62) was killed in a hit-and-run accident on June 30, 2015. Eugene had been out for a cycle from their home in Drumcondra to Dollymount Strand - a cycle he had taken for 30 years - when he was struck by a car.

Marie had been at home, enjoying the "beautiful summer evening" and had just finished preparing dinner when she got the phone call that changed her life forever.

"Never in my life did I think I'd receive that phone call but I did," Marie told the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE's Radio One.

"The phonecall came from his phone... I thought maybe he had got a puncture and needed me to come and pick him up."

However, it wasn't Eugene on the other end of the phone. A calm and unfamiliar voice on the other end of the line identified himself as a paramedic. He told Marie that her husband had been clipped off his bike and asked if she could meet them in Beaumont Hospital.

Marie didn't become "alarmed or panicked" as the paramedic's tone didn't hint at the seriousness of the situation. She called her son and daughter and arranged for them to meet her at the hospital. When she arrived at the emergency department, she was expecting to see Eugene with a "broken arm or leg" but instead there was no sign of him.

A receptionist met Marie and brought her to the back corridor. A nurse joined them and explained that Eugene had gone for a CT scan. Soon, Marie and her two children were led into a private room where they were given tea and coffee. It was at that stage that Marie realised that she wouldn't be getting good news.

"Two nurses and a doctor came into the room and, for the rest of my life I will remember this, they said 'there is nothing we can do for him'.

"I froze in the chair, I felt numb. I took a fit of the shakes, I literally couldn't speak. There wasn't a single word between the three of us."

The family were led to the Intensive Care Unit where they said goodbye to Eugene.

"We sat with him, I held his hand, I told him how much I loved him. I couldn't believe this was happeneing, this man who was larger than life. He always seemed to get up and get on with things. He was amazing. I could not believe that this man was gone from my life. My life would never be the same again," said Marie.

"I was robbed of my husband. We got the post-mortem results and discovered that he was such a healthy man. He loved his bike. It was his freedom."

Marie suffered with nightmares in the months after her husband's death. She still gets them from time to time and explained to Ryan Turbidy that she sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night and wonders if it has all been a dream.

"Does this ever go away?" she asked.

Marie said she that lost her confidence and felt like she had no focus in life. She found it hard to accept her husband's death: "I felt that I wouldn't be able to function in the world without him because I had been with him for so long."

Marie started to see a councellor, who she said changed how she viewed the situation. She left each session feeling like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

"I felt like I could carry on for the week," she said. "One thing I couldn't do was stay in the house so I'd go anywhere. I'd get into the car and drive into town, to a relative's house or to a friend's," she said.

Slowly Marie started to rebuild her life. Although she continued to mourn for her husband, a "great family man" who had been part of her life for so long, she knew that she needed to find a focus in her life and decided to return to work.

She had previously owned a florists in Drumcondra, White Knight flowers and gift shop, but closed it in 2012 as she felt she couldn't continue to "work every hour that God sent". Marie gave the business up to spend quality time with Eugene, her children and grandchildren.

"We had two grandsons at the time who [Eugene] adored. This man and his children - he thought they were the only two children in the world, he idolised them. He was so supportive of his children. I have four grandchildren now and I feel sad that they will never get to meet this incredible, family man," she said.

A few weeks ago, she decided to set up her own floral studio business from her home. The focus gave Marie a new lease of life. The business, The Bridal Florist, specialises in wedding flowers. "I wanted to surround myself with happiness for a change and weddings are such happy and special occasions," she said.

Marie's daughter set up a Facebook page for the business and it has received great support online so far.

But it wasn't just work that helped Marie get her life back on track. She also joined a local choral group called Sensations and credited the choir with helping her feel positive again.

"Those girls don't know how far they've brought me," she said.

Eugene died from head injuries hours after being struck by a car driven by Christopher Coleman (27). Coleman had been banned from driving at the time and had never held a driving licence.

Coleman pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Maher at Clontarf Road, Dublin on June 30, 2015. He also admitted leaving the scene of the crash and to driving without insurance.

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