Tears flow as parents remember lost children
SHE was "a gifted, bright light", a talented musician, a highly intelligent student, a "livewire" and a loving daughter who would always lift the spirits of her parents and siblings.
Seven years later, Martin and Olive Staunton found themselves back in the same hotel yesterday where they first learned of the horrific road accident that claimed the life of their beloved daughter Carmel (22) and left another daughter critical and their son also injured.
The Stauntons, from Eyrecourt, Co Galway, joined other bereaved parents from the support group Anam Cara -- along with Mary Cowen, wife of Taoiseach Brian Cowen, and RTE broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan -- to release 4,000 balloons representing deceased children into the sky at Lloyd Park, Tullamore, Co Offaly, on All Souls Day yesterday.
Tears slipped down the cheeks of parents during the simple ceremony -- with one couple having lost a baby five weeks ago, while another father is still grieving for the son he lost 24 years ago.
All were also conscious of the grief recently experienced by Foreign Minister Micheal Martin and his wife Mary on the loss of their daughter Leana. Mary Cowen had been to see the family and described the situation as "terrible".
The Stauntons told how their three children, who formed the musical group The Stauntons and were being billed as the next Corrs, had been on their way to play a gig at the Tullamore Court Hotel on October 24, 2003, when their car slipped into a dip in the road.
"We don't remember making that journey," said Olive Staunton yesterday, referring to the traumatising drive she and Martin made to Mullingar Hospital to find out the condition of their three children.
On arrival someone informed them: "One of them is gone."
"We didn't want to know the name," said Olive. When they saw Carmel the devastated couple cradled her in their arms.
After the funeral, the couple found themselves with nowhere to turn, unable to deal with their daughter's death alone. But in Anam Cara they found comfort amongst parents in a similar position to themselves.
"You have to live through it to understand it," said Martin of the loss of a child. "We didn't understand it ourselves until it happened to us and it helps to talk to others who understand what you're going through."