Monday, July 1, 2013

Please Choose Life

I am a big fan of the radio and it's always on in the car tuned to local, regional or national stations. The choice of show depends on who is in the car with me, my mood and whether or not there is a breaking news story that I need to follow for my work as a Communications Officer.

This morning I was in the car by myself travelling to work in Maynooth so I happened to switch channel at 9am to see who was on and who is away on holidays - it can be hard to keep up, especially on the National stations.

I heard Miriam on the John Murray Show and heard her mention Donal Walsh so I stayed tuned in. I had just pulled into the car park in work when her interview with Donal Walsh's parents began.

Now if you don't know who Donal Walsh is, then you missed an opportunity to listen to and to learn from an amazing young man who sadly passed away recently. Donal Walsh, while living with terminal cancer, went on National TV to talk about his desire to simply live and to plead with young people who so often and so readily choose suicide - to STOP and to choose to live instead of choosing to die.

You would have wanted to have a heart of stone to be unmoved by this young man and his parents who so clearly loved the very ground he walked on.

Anyway back to Miriam this morning and her interview with Donal's parents. Miriam took them back through DOnal's life and what he was like as a baby and then up to the point where he was diagnosed with a tumour in his knee when he was just entering his teenage years and when all he wanted to do was to play sport.

The interview was sensitive and you got a real sense again of the boy who had just made the transition from boyhood to being a man. I felt at times like I was sitting at their kitchen table as they got bad news, followed by good news and then more bad news. I was almost there with them the day they got the awful news that there were no more treatment options for Donal.

I cried as I listened to a father who back then was trying to be strong and for whom it still took every ounce of his strength not to cry today on national radio. I found it particularly hard to listen to Elma, Donal's mother as she spoke of her son. I know what sons are to their mothers, especially Irish sons as I am Mum to a little boy of 8.

The last think Donal's mother said today as Miriam signed off the interview was that Donal will be waiting for her ....... Those words will stay with me forever.

Her faith is so strong. Her joy in the short life of her son was palpable today.

Donal's parents said that he has left them with a lot of work to do - he started something while he was in his final few months on earth that I hope will in some way help and encourage young people to choose life. In fact I hope it will encourage people of all ages to always choose life.

I am living with an incurable form of bone marrow cancer and I know it is hard for those who love me. As I listened to Donal's parents today I thought about how I am on the other side of where they are - they are parents mourning their son. I am scared every day that I will be the parent of children who are mourning me.

It's very hard - impossibly hard and overwhelming at times.  I get angry when I hear of another person who has died by suicide. I can't help it and you will have to forgive my anger at people who I know are sick and suffering too - people who are in despair and who can't see a way out. I do my best to understand and I know that there is a black hole and people often can't help but fall into it but I have fought every day since my diagnosis on 10 January 2007 to live, to survive and to squeeze every last drop I can from this life. It's hard for me to understand a senseless loss of someone by suicide.

I hope that Donal's life and the witness he gave in the short time he had on earth can make people sit up and actively choose life especially in a world which so often seems to be weighed on the side of the culture of death.

I hope that I can grow old surrounded by the people who love me and whom I love.

For Donal, for me, for all those fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses - please choose life! It's always worth it.


PS Never underestimate the power of radio!


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  2. This interview was discussed in work today. A young man who had made a large impression in life and who has left an equally large legacy after, continued on now in his loving Parents. A person to be proud of in difficult times.