Today is Daniel’s birthday. He is sixteen years old, yet for me he is also forever thirteen. Thirteen, the same age as my youngest. There are days when I look at her and I hurt as I remember Daniel’s pain as he battled through his thirteenth year. How would I tell her if she had leukemia? How would I help her cope with her hair falling out? What if we lost her, our bubbly beautiful daughter?
I first met Daniel before he ever appeared in this world. From the very beginning he lived close to the edge. I was driving home, only minutes away, when at the roundabout I took a left instead of a right. To this day I don’t know why, as I’d been looking forward to having a half hour at home alone before collecting from playschool. Minutes later I was outside my buddies house. I wondered should I go in? She was almost nine months pregnant, maybe she was resting? Inexplicably I found myself knocking at her door.
There was a pause before she opened it, visibly distressed. Moments earlier she had begun to hemorrhage. We managed to deal with the situation and she was rushed to hospital where young Daniel made his dramatic entrance later that day.
Always a showman.
Always happy to send his Mum and Dads heart crossways.
As the years of Daniels short life rolled by, he packed it full of rare and crazy moments. It is the memories of those many moments which hurt, but also comfort his family and friends in the often dark and lonely days since he died.
There are days when they miss him everywhere. But is he really gone?
I’m not overly superstitious but for the past three Christmas’s coincidences have happened which his family have little doubt demonstrate that Daniel was busy.
Remember the first Christmas after he died when I wrote about the mysterious Christmas card which appeared in my kitchen. It was one Daniel had given me the previous year. I had not seen it despite spending most of my time in the kitchen and it being clearly visible. A short time later his Mum and Dad called by. Was Daniel saying hello?
Then last Christmas (his second one away from home) his parents attended ‘candles by candlelight’, which is a huge carol service. A few thousand were in attendance. There was a draw and who won the top prize?… Daniel’s mum. She was so delighted and took great comfort in imagining it was her Christmas present from Daniel.
So what happened this Christmas I know you are wondering? Well apart from the fact that Christmas morning the rain stopped for only one hour, which happened to be the same hour the huge gathering were swimming the Christmas Day swim in memory of Daniel, one other event of note occured.
Christmas evening Daniel’s extended family were gathered when his sister got a phone call from a friend. ‘Have you got the book, relentless?’ (It’s a book about the Cork Ladies Football team who have won ten all Ireland finals in eleven years). His sister said her Dad had it. ‘Did he read it yet?’. Well as it was only hours after he’d unpacked it no was the answer. ‘Go to page 244 ‘.
So she did and there she read an account from one of the football players, Bríd Stack, of her visit to Crumlin Hospital the day after winning the final. She spoke of meeting ‘a gorgeous young man who was very involved in sport. His name was Danny Crowley’. A large paragraph was written featuring their meeting. As her sister excitedly showed it to her family, time was spent remembering that day.
Daniel was very ill at the time and the Cork men had been beaten by Dublin in the men’s All Ireland Football final the previous week. Daniel was asked if he would like some of the winning team (of Dubs) to come see him with the trophy. He barely opened his eyes as he dismissed the prospect. A week later when asked the same question about the Cork Ladies coming to see him he happily agreed. I have little doubt the fact that the team members were all very attractive women had nothing to do with his decision.
As his family laughed and reminisced, they once again felt Daniel had come calling for Christmas.
So today as his family celebrate his sixteenth birthday I hope Daniel is close by and knows he continues to be very much a part of his family. Much loved, sadly missed but never forgotten.
Happy Birthday Daniel.