Six months ago I started out in a journey to train as a celebrant with one spirit, if I successfully complete the training I will be a celebrant doing weddings, funerals, end of life support, and all life ceremonies.
I have found the training to be a remarkable journey so far, meeting many amazing people and learning so much about myself and about life and my spirituality. The training came at a very good time as I was dealing with the loss of my older and only brother to cancer at the age of 47.
In a recent assignment, we were asked to create a ceremony about something really important in our lives. I created a ceremony about my brother, a celebration of his life, and how his passing has impacted on me and changed my perspective on life.
As we approach the one year anniversary of William’s passing, I'm sharing aspects of that ceremony. I hope my experience may be a help to others who are experiencing bereavement or who will experience it in the future. Bereavement comes in many forms.
It was the morning Sunday, June 18, 2017, my phone rang, it was my sister in London. I was standing at my sock drawer preparing to get dressed, I remember it very vividly.
She told me my brother William was in hospital, and that I needed to go home to Wexford. I had an instant feeling that we were in trouble.
He had been unwell for a few weeks with what was initially diagnosed as vertigo. Within 24 hours he was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer with tumours on the lung and on the brain, requiring immediate surgery in Beaumont.
Four weeks prior to Williams diagnosis I had taken redundancy from a long-standing insurance career with the intention of taking time out and getting a business idea off the ground. It gave me the opportunity to be there for William, and to help in any way I could, I feel extremely blessed that I was given that opportunity.
I don't believe the timing of my availability and me taking redundancy was any coincidence. In life, some things are meant to me.
It's hard to believe it's a year, it's gone by so quickly, it's almost like a blur. I still feel Williams presence around me on a daily basis, guiding me on life's journey.
His two wonderful sons talk about their Daddy regularly, and their bravery, enthusiasm for life and fun personalities have been a huge source of comfort. The apples never fall far from the tree!
We remember William's fun-loving attitude towards life, his ability to step up and deliver when required, his sporting talent, his ability to tell "Buster Stories" it was amazing to learn of all the things I had done in my life that I never knew about, what a wonderful imagination he had! And of course his big smile. We remember these things today and always.
Having the opportunity to reflect now with a clearer head two years on from Williams diagnosis and one year on from his passing, I realise how amazing people have been in supporting us in so many different ways.
I think of the amazing efforts people made, the love they gave to William in those final weeks in Pettitstown. The support people continue to give on a weekly basis by calling into and spending time with Jenny and the boys.
And the people who call on my 83-year-old mother on a weekly basis, the wonderful neighbour who brings her to mass, to town, out for dinner, wonderful acts of kindness. No mother wants to outlive their child.
Rural Ireland is an amazing place with amazing people! I often feel like I have come home.
I think of the amazing efforts people made to travel to Wexford this time last year to comfort us. One example of many such stories of kindness was a man who had just returned from a trip abroad, he got in his car in Galway with his wife, drove a five hour journey cross country to Wexford arriving into Williams wake at 9.00 pm, and then driving back to Galway that night to be in work the following morning.
He didn't know William but came to support me! There were many other people who made similar journeys to be with us, to support us with their powerful presence.
I was astonished watching the constant stream of people arriving from all over Ireland, people we didn't expect to see, from all aspects of our lives, work colleagues and career foes, sporting friends and foes.
These things really matter in life, their a huge source of comfort during bereavement, never underestimate the power of your presence and making that effort. It's at times like this people need you most, but any past disagreements behind you, they don't matter.
No one wants to go through what we have been through in the last two years, but many families have and will in the future, you never know the day or the hour, or when it will come knocking at your door. I remember the moment it came knocking on ours very vividly.
It's a life changing experience and I'm a very different person today than I was two years ago.
Sometimes in life out of something tragic good can come. I'm a stronger person now, the fog began to lift, I appreciate the value of life and living it to the fullest.
I'm blessed to have two nephews who give me so much.
I got to know my brother much better during his illness, get to know the people you love now, don’t delay what you can do today to tomorrow, because tomorrow may never come.
What doesn't break you makes you stronger.
Live your life, live it to the fullest, live a life that makes you happy, don't live a life to meet other people's expectations, it won't make you Happy.
When you need to cry, cry, I have cried a lot.
In any aspect of life don't suppress or deny your emotions, it will lead to unhappiness. Don’t let fear and other people’s perceptions rule your decision making.
Difficult decisions you make, are a five-minute wonders in other people's lives, they move on very quickly, you live with your decisions all your life, make decisions that make you happy, don’t make decisions to keep other people happy. Difficult decisions often require courage and bravery.
Bring openness and honesty to all aspects of your life it will bring contentment.
If you feel down or depressed talk to someone, anyone. It's good to talk, I have talked a lot.
Try to be positive as much as you can in life, surround yourself with positive people, negative people drain your energy. I have been drained in the past.
Our Taoiseach spoke very wise words and gave very good advice to the Catholic Church during the pope's recent visit to Ireland when speaking on social issues. Women should make their own decisions, people understand that marriages do not always work out and that families come in many different forms including those headed by a grandparent, lone parent or same-sex parent, or parents who are divorced.
Dance like no one's watching, sing like no one's listening, love like you have never been hurt.
That's very much the way William lived his life, he did it his way, and while his life was all to short at 47 years old, he packed a lot in.
He told me shortly after his diagnosis he had a great life and he didn't fear dying, his only concern was for the young family he would leave behind.
His family and friends remember him always for how much fun he was, for his kind and gentle nature, a wonderful father, husband, brother, son and friend, for his great imagination, and his sporting talent and success, how he enjoyed a night out or a sing-song at the many party’s he hosted in his wonderful home, to its fullest. And of course like all of us he wasn't perfect, he could be dogged and determined, and sometimes it was his way or the byway :) He always liked to have the last word.
He dealt with his illness with great courage, bravery, dignity and honesty, we miss him dearly.
Thank you to everyone for your support, remember it really matters, it will never be forgotten.
I urge you if you can to support the Irish Cancer Society and Hospice Home Care, they do remarkable work!
William you played the game of hurling and the game of life to its absolute maximum, we look forward to meeting you again one day, further on up the road. Safe home now X
I attach a link to one of Williams favourites sings, Grace, he would love this version by Rod Stewart.
For those of you who knew him, listen to it and remember him and all that he brought to your life