Day My Best Friend Became An Angel
Summer always reminds me of Aoife – she
was born in
in summer. I moved to Blackrock aged eight and on the first day in
my new house I went to the local shop to buy an ice cream. On the way
I bumped into Aoife and her baby sister Cliona. It was a hot day and
they were wearing jelly shoes and sucking on Mr. Freeze ice pops. Aoife
and I were inseparable after that – we played dolls houses, went
clothes shopping and to the cinema. We read Just Seventeen and kissed
boys for the first time! Then we started secondary school. Life changed
and we made new friends but Aoife and I lived next door to each other.
We no longer lived in each others pockets but we still had a special
bond. It was this bond that stuck in my mind after summer 1990. Aoife
died in an accident that summer.
That day I was at home. I think it was a sunny day, I can’t remember
now. But I’ll never forget the moment the door bell rang and an
out of breath friend told me Aoife had been knocked off her bike. At
the shops. Just now. She must have gone down to the post box I thought.
We were both pen pal addicts. She was in Beaumont hospital. I felt frightened
for those few days, listening to reports from next door about her progress.
Aoife was brain damaged. Aged fourteen I couldn’t comprehend this.
Neither could I imagine her death. The news was a body blow. I was in
the living room with my parents and brother and I can’t remember
who told us. It might have been Julie, Aoife's and my friend – we
had been quite the trio in primary school. She’d been next door
since the accident. I hadn’t. I burst out crying.
After that I stayed cool. I didn’t know how to express my grief
so it was best not to cry. I’m not sure if I decided not to or
if it was an unconscious reaction. Everybody was crying. Aoife’s
mother and father. Her brother and sisters. I went next door on the morning
of Aoife’s funeral. There was an awful moment when Aoife’s
dad called her name up the stairs, the painful realisation etched on
his face a moment later. We were going to Aoife’s funeral. That
was the last time I was next door for a long time. Thinking about that
time now the over riding emotion I can remember is guilt. Guilty that
Aoife and I hadn’t been as close as we once were when she died.
Guilty that her family had to watch me growing up when she was gone.
Guilty that I was still here and she wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t
my fault but somehow I felt bad.
And that was apart from missing Aoife. Heartbreak was the other thing.
I always thought of her during my teenage years. Neither of us was hugely
academic but I knew she would have done better than me in the Leaving
Cert. What would she have studied in college? Now I no longer think of
the parallels of our lives if she had lived. She is in heaven. She is
happy. Losing somebody my own age as a teenager was difficult as I became
aware of my own mortality. It was a shock and an experience that shaped
my awareness of death.
So on the night I got a message from heaven I knew it was something more
brilliant than a dream or anything I could imagine. An amazing person
came to speak to me. This was the first and only time I’ve seen
her since then. We were twenty one. I was mesmerised by Aoife on this
night – What a beautiful young woman she had become.
She radiated a kindness that I’ve never felt from anyone here on
earth before. I was not stunned that she was here in my room as it seemed
as if she was always present – I had just not actually seen her
since we were schoolgirls. Now that we were grown up Aoife had come to
me with a message. She understood my life, we were both at a difficult
age but while I struggled she had a grace I can never comprehend. I had
a tendency then to fall out with my friends – my cold shoulder
would not thaw ‘til I was good and ready! Aoife knew that I wasn’t
talking to Lydia. She advised that as once she had been my best friend
that now Lydia was.
I couldn’t believe it when I woke up next morning. Aoife is an
angel… Wow! And she had come to see me last night. Of course she
had something important to say about friendship – and what better
way than to tell me in person. I sometimes look back on that night and
wonder if it was just a dream. But no. Seeing Aoife as she is now (or
at twenty one, I’ve changed a lot but I’m sure she is still
breathing!) is an experience that I’ll always cherish The immediate
impact was that I called Lydia that day and our friendship became stronger – we’re
still in contact today. The spiritual reward is that I know Heaven exists.
Aoife lives there.
second speaker at the A.G.M was Joan Freeman who, after the death by
suicide of her sister, decided to set up a charity dedicated
to caring for people contemplating taking their own lives. As a trained
psychologist, she had tended to avoid suicidal patients in her practice
but after her sister’s death she realised that a number of tragic
events had caused her sister to become depressed and that this had been
neglected. Perhaps her sister did not need to die.
Having come to this conclusion and following library research, she was
consumed with guilt and determined to do something about it. The result
was Pieta House, opened in Lucan in 2006. Today there are 5 centres,
the most recent having been opened in Limerick in the last few months.
Pieta House offers one on one counselling to people who are feeling suicidal
or have already attempted suicide and to people who self-harm. The sessions
may be anything from one a week to seven a week, depending on the severity
of the case. The sessions are free which means that the clients can receive
the help they need without the extra worry of cost. The Charity now has
50 psychotherapists working in their 2* centres and helped 1200 new clients
in 2010. The age range of people using this service is 6 to 83.
Joan gave us much to think about in these days when deaths by suicide
out number deaths on the roads. How do we deal with the suicide bereaved?
Never use the term commit; the act was only decriminalised in 1993 and
this term is extremely hurtful.
Try to focus on the bereaved not on the person who died, this person
may be at high risk. At anniversary times try to focus on celebrating
the life of the loved one, try to make it a positive action.
There are many signs of possible suicidal tendencies; change of normal
mood, withdrawal from usual activities, mobile mostly switched off, avoiding
eye contact; conversation may change from positive to negative i.e. I
see no point in life; giving away possessions or becoming more aggressive
especially with drink. Any or all of these may indicate a person at risk.
Pieta House also helps the mostly young girls who routinely self-harm.
This is quite different from suicide and is usually to externalise emotional
trauma which they cannot express verbally (or they may have no one they
can express to) The release of changing emotional pain to a physical
pain brings calm and peace to these people, for at least a while.
As a charity Pieta House receives funding from the H.S.E. but it is only
a fraction of the cost of running this amazing service, the rest is got
from fund raising such as the 5k “Darkness into Light” walk
Please Note** In the printed version of this newsletter
it was incorrectly stated there were 5* centres. We wish to correct this
error. There are 2 centres one in Lucan and the second in Limerick.
If your group has not yet contributed to the running costs of the
G.E.C. your donation of €50
would be appreciated as soon as
Parish Report and Register
If you have not yet returned the Parish Report and Register of
members form please do so now.
Day of Reflection
For Bethany members
The Lord is with us
(Preparation for the Eucharist Congress 2012)
by Frances Hogan
Venue: Clonliffe College, Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Date: 16th April 2011
Time: (9.30 am – 4.00pm)
Cost: €20 per person
(Light lunch provided Tea/coffee sandwiches)
RSVP: Name of Parish group
Please respond by 8th April 2011 to:
or to Bethany GEC Parish Office,
Rathfarnham Parish Centre,
Willbrook Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.
An urgent message to all groups from the FSA.
Every group must send in their 2011 bank
balance statement whether they are appying for a grant or not.
Members of the General Executive
Members of the General
Executive for 2011:
Myles O'Reilly SJ (Spiritual Director),
Winnie Keogh (Chairperson),
Moira Staines (Secretary),
Ronan Hughes (Treasurer), Anne Butler, Brendan Nugent, Maeve Mason, Deirdre Ó Muirí,
Gobnait O'Grady, James Garland.
Bethany Bereavement Support Group,
c/o Rathfarnham Parish Centre, Willbrook Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.
Bethany Phone: 087 9905299
Executive Committee reports to AGM
17th AGM of the Bethany Bereavement Support Group was
held in Milltown
Ranelagh on the 5th
Feb. The chairperson Winnie Keogh welcomed the delegates and Fr Myles
O’Reilly celebrated Mass including a touching ceremony of Light
for members and their families who had died during the year.
Following a presentation by Nuala Casey and Joan Freeman (report above)
the business of the day continued.
The minutes of AGM 2010 were read and adopted.
Treasurer’s Report was read by Anne Butler on behalf of Ronan
Costs and income are under 2 headings (a) Operational costs (b) Added
value service. As these do not balance out the GEC are proposing to
continue to collect €50 annually from each group, if funds permit.
Secretary’s Report. Groups were thanked for returning Parish
Reports, as it is essential to keep the register up to date. 50% of
groups made their donations. Thank you.
Training continued at Blackrock, Clonliffe, Knocklyon and Esker. 9
new groups were formed. The next training course started in Clonliffe
on Feb 15 to May7. Richard Lowry is welcome as the new Director of
GEC recommend that groups that train together should arrange to meet
in 6 months to have audit and feedback.
1 facilitation weekend was conducted by Gobnait O’Grady.
2 bereavement weekends were held in Orlagh. The next session takes
place 25th to 27th March. Places are limited and early booking is advised.
The newsletter is coordinated by Deirdre Ó Muirí and
all groups are urged to submit notice of events, stories, poems etc.
to help our work with the bereaved.
A day of reflection is to be conducted by Frances Hogan, a scripture
scholar, on the 16th April in Clonliffe College.
All visits to families should take place in pairs to comply with the
Bethany code of conduct.
The Chairperson’s Report Winnie was most encouraged by the distances
delegates had travelled to attend. Nuala Casey was a witness to how
we can reach out to the bereaved. We should never give up our efforts
even when things are slow.
The Orlagh weekend helps greatly in the support of the bereaved and
we should make sponsorship available to clients we feel would benefit
from it. Members themselves are recommended to participate in this
The day of reflection will be part of our preparation for the Eucharistic
Use FSA grant for travel, Bethany phone use, buying books and the cd
which could be handed out at the service of light.
Three amendments to the constitution were presented. Two were passed
and the third: “to provide a voluntary parish based ministry,
which aims to support all the bereaved through the grieving process
(within a faith based perspective – where it is shared”)
was amended after lively discussion and unanimously accepted subject
to the words in brackets being omitted.
James Garland was proposed by Rosemary Davitt of Castleknock and seconded
by Patricia Cunningham of Churchtown and elected without opposition
to the G.E.C.
Gerry Ryan has stepped down from the GEC and we thank him for his organisation
of our recent Days of Reflection and his contribution to the GEC for
The meeting concluded with a final prayer.
at 2011 Bethany A.G.M. by Nuala Casey.
Nuala began by emphasising the following points.
Blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Do not
be shy to
approach the suicide bereaved. Craig, 17, took his own life
20th Sept 2005.The aftermath was a nightmare. Nuala tried to
achieve normality. Bernie Little of Bethany helped greatly.
There is a major need for support, be sensitive – listen
Craig had been unhappy during the year but seemed better and
was back at college. On returning from a meeting Nuala found
him and she related the horrific sequence of events that followed
in detail They called the ambulance and while waiting she knelt
before the statue of the Divine Mercy and begged that it wasn’t
so, that she should be taken, not her beloved son. The ambulance
took them to Vincent’s hospital where she had to formally
identify her son. The grim procedures which accompany all sudden
deaths had to be endured and the family got home at 12.30
There are no words to describe this kind of grief. If the grief
at a death from old age, illness or an accident comes in waves,
then this comes in tsunamis, said Nuala. She longed for his
presence while trying to function normally for the rest of
the family. She felt no anger towards Craig only longed for
his presence day and night. The family grieved in their own
individual ways and the strain of this was an added burden.
Nuala told of the wonderful help of Bernie Little, now retired
Bethany member who listened with sensitivity when it was needed.
She found that switching from her own to other’s grief
could help her to bear her own.
Craig took his own life but he did not commit anything and
she finds any mention of the words “commit” and “suicide” very
distressing. A part of Nuala died that night, as part was also
lost with the death at 17 months of her son Glen many years
ago she believes that they were both received into the arms
of a loving and merciful Jesus
Nuala finished by exhorting us to approach the suicide bereaved
without fear, to just be ourselves and to use the skills we
have learned in Bethany.
This moving talk from a calm, courageous and dignified mother
was greeted by a standing ovation by the large audience. She
gave the glory and honour to God.
for the dead
parents used to speak of an old man they knew ____ a man unmarried
but greatly loved and
by relatives, friends and neighbours. Surrounded by people as he was
dying, he seemed unconscious but he
slowly opened his eyes, looked around him and said “Ah, lads,
now for the great mystery.” Then he closed his eyes and quietly
Death is for us the great and ultimate mystery. I sometimes quote Natasha
in Tolstoy’s “War and peace.” Kneeling by Prince Andre’s
bed as he died from battle wounds she said “Where is he now? Where
has he gone?
A mighty mystery.
But all life is a mystery and so is everyone in it. I am a mystery even
to myself. As the writer Henry James put it “Never believe that you
know the last word about any human heart.” The president of the European
Union, Herman Von Rompuys, expressed it recently “all human beings
must, at some point in their lives, choose between mystery and absurdity.”
The vast, vast majority of the human race will say that an awful lot of
things and events leave us with questions, baffle us, are mysterious but
life and we are not absurd, are not pointless.
There is a point to living; there is a point to dying, despite the pain
and bewilderment and unanswered questions.
We’ve all seen our nearest and dearest die. We’ve experienced
the rending and tearing that goes with the death of someone loved by us.
As one person said to me, “It’s like having your insides ripped
out by a j.c.b.”
Whatever the age of the person a death is a death is a death. You adapt
to it, you adjust to it. You keep on living, one step in front of the other.
But you never “get over it”.
I have written that every life is a mystery and death is the great and
final mystery. But a mystery is not a full stop, it is not a cul-de-sac.
It is an invitation to enter into, to explore, to deepen, to develop, and
Writing as a Catholic Christian I can say that those we call “the
dead” are not totally separated from us. True they live outside time
and space and we with our “clay shuttered senses” cannot see
or hear or touch them. That is a limitation on our part.
But they and we belong to the Communion of Saints, the family that is composed
of the Blessed in Heaven, the souls in what we call “Purgatory” and
those who walk the earth. The Blessed in Heaven we pray to and we know
they number the canonised saints and the infants, and they watch over and
pray for us. We do not know the eternal destiny of anyone else. How can
we? So we just pray for “The souls in Purgatory” and we exclude
nobody. Friends, families, relatives, people we couldn’t stand on
earth, people who couldn’t stand us, people who died leaving marvellous
reputations behind them and people like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.
Our prayer is a bridge across the chasm of death and it is a debt we owe
all the dead.
If our prayers for some people are not needed they go to others in need.
Man’s economics are very wasteful. In God’s economy nothing
is wasted. No prayer is unanswered.
Lord you hate nothing you have made. So we leave those who have left this
world in your hands. May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed
rest in peace. Amen.
Fr. Bill Fortune.
Esker training weekend
As another Esker training session came to an end, Winnie and Deirdre
took the train to Athenry Co. Galway to take part in the closing ceremonies.
This Redemptorist monastery is situated in rolling glacially deposited
countryside close to Esker Riada, from which its name derived.
We were in time for the ceremony of burning letters to loved ones and
processed with the group singing hymns as we went. We returned to the
main room where each person brought up a photo and a memento of their
loved one and briefly explained what it meant to them. The items were
lovingly placed and formed a moving display round the altar.
Lunch was then served in the refectory, where the bonds of friendship
which had been formed over two weekends, showed in the buzz of good
This close knit group of 38 people from the north and the west had
bonded very well over the two weekends of the training session and
the sense of purpose and mission from them was powerful. They knew
just why they were there and what they wanted to do when they returned
to their groups or founded new ones in their home parishes.
Although the group was much larger than normal, the team, put together
by Sr. Mary Glennon, managed to include everyone in all the activities
as seen by us in their participation in the mass. Team members were
Leader Sr. Mary Glennon, Maude Prendergast, Donna O’Donoghue,
Marie Tracey, Fr. Johnny Doherty, Sr. Margaret Buckley, Jane Tracey
and Kathleen Heavey. We returned to the main room for Mass and the
commissioning ceremony which closed the training session. Mass was
said by Fr. Johnny Doherty, who has been a staunch friend of Bethany
for some years. Winnie performed the commissioning of the groups and
new groups were given a candle which would be used at meetings. Pre
existing groups brought their own candle. The ceremony is short and
sincere and as I watched, 3 people from Loughrea, 4 from Tuam, 2 from
Moycullen, 9 from Greenlough Co. Derry, 7 from Hollywood Co. Down,
7 from Ballybane Co. Galway, 6 from St. Joseph's Galway made their
commitment to Bethany.