We meet many people in our daily lives. To some we bring a smile, to others conversation, companionship or comfort. Often without knowing it we make a difference, the ripples in a day spreading wider with each person we meet. Here is a story about how one person changed a couples life, without even knowing them. Perhaps after reading this, one of you may one day be in a position to do the same.
A week ago I was at a fundraising lunch for a very special Irish support group called, Anam Cara, which translated from Irish means ‘Soul mate’. Unless you have lost a child you will most likely have never heard of this organisation. It’s a club none of us wish to be a member of. They are a group of parents who have lost children, regardless of age, who offer support to others in the same boat.
During the afternoon I was struck by how upbeat the lunch was, tables of friends gathered together enjoying the craic. Yet, as was the case at our table, I knew beneath the smiles and laughter were broken hearts, doing their best to get through the very changed lives they are living.
Before dinner one of the parents spoke. She told the story of how four years ago this month their only child, a daughter aged nineteen, was killed in an accident. She painted a vivid picture of her daughter, the smiles, the fun, the jokes and the carefree nature she showed in everyday living. That final morning her car wouldn’t start and her dad checked it out. Her mother recalled him roaring up the stairs, ‘That car would have some chance if you’d put petrol in it!’ He then left to do that for her, just as most dads would do, as she shouted playfully, ‘be sure to fill it up dad’. On return he admonished her, ‘I gave you €50 on Wednesday to put petrol in it’. She replied, “I know Dad but I was in BT’s and there was a lovely eyeliner so I only put €10 in”. A while later she left for work.
That evening, ten minutes from home, she was killed in a crash.
Her mum described so clearly how their apartment emptied that day. As the days and weeks passed there was silence as the noise was gone. No longer was the hair straightener left plugged in, her perfume slowly fading. It was heartbreaking to listen to her story, but she continued on so strong. After a few weeks her husband decided he’d have to return to work. One day shortly after his return, a man handed him a pin and said, ‘My friend told me these people can help you.’ The pin he’d been handed was a small Anam Cara pin. Her husband made contact and felt it was helpful. Initially the speaker refused to go to meetings, as she lay bereft missing her daughter. However after a few more months had passed she relented and believes the group has saved her.
It was hearing the part of the story about the stranger giving this father the Anam Cara pin, that really got me thinking. I, or one of you reading this, could one day be that person, handing over a pin to a friend or as in this case a stranger. Maybe you already know of someone who has lost a child, perhaps you could see if they know of this group? If you live abroad can you identify a similar group?
I remember all too clearly the early days after Daniel died. I had no words for my friend. As we walked and cried nothing helped, she was in shock and drowning before my eyes The fear of always living like this, feeling this pain, was too much for her to bear. After sharing nearly thirty years of friendship and the pain of Daniels illness, I was helpless. Then one day in desperation she turned to google and up came Anam Cara. She immediately made contact with them and a lovely lady arranged to meet her. I cannot describe the impact that meeting had on my friend. Here was someone who had also lost a child and was still breathing and living. She spoke honestly with my friend, but for the first time since Daniels death she gave my friend hope. To this day Anam Cara continues to play a large part in her life without Daniel.
I understand group support is not for everyone, but if is of great help to many. They provide help for siblings and last year launched a campaign providing businesses with advice on the return of a colleague to work following the death of a child. What to expect, what to say and what not to say. So please remember the name, Anam Cara. If you see them fundraising remember how important they are to that club none of us ever wish to belong to, and if you know of anyone who has lost a child, no matter how long ago, consider giving them the details of this group, it may be of help in their grief.
To all those I met last week, or who I watched from a distance, I salute you. I do not wish to ever belong to your group but I hugely admire what you do. As a friend who was at a loss as to how to help my grieving pal I thank you for all you have done for her and all you continue to do.
Remember the name… Anam Cara.
To check them out online… Anam Cara
Or on facebook visit…Anam Cara facebook page.