I haven’t been on social media much recently. I decided to have a little bit of a break from it all as the real world took precedence for a bit. I went home to Ireland to be with my family.
The trip was not a planned one, it happened suddenly and unexpectedly because, unfortunately, my eldest brother died in exactly that manner, without warning and without a chance to say the things that I would dearly loved to have said but will now never have the opportunity.
To say I am devastated and eaten up with grief and sadness every day doesn’t really come close to explaining how I feel about it. I have been going on air throughout and popping backwards and forwards between Ireland and work, putting on a brave face and trying to get on with things, but I don’t mind admitting it has been hard.
I don’t mean to be maudlin or glum or bring anyone down with this, I just wanted to let you know why I haven’t really been around on social media and if you see me on air and I may appear to be anything other than, what I like to think is, my usual cheery self, then that is the reason.
My brother, Feargal, was just 53 years old, 5 years older than me. He was the eldest of the four of us, now we are three. It was a massive heart attack, which given my own heart issues has given me pause. It has left me shaken and uncertain of life. Still, I have reason to be positive and grateful. I am still here and, shortly after my brother’s death, I had the one year anniversary of my heart bypass surgery so there is still a lot of life to be lived, all being well.
My ultimate concern during this time has been for my mother. She turned 81 the day after the funeral and I’ve told her she isn’t allowed to go anywhere yet, I fear that more than anything at the moment as I’m not sure I’d have the strength to bear it.
Unsure of what else to do to help, I chose to hire a car and take mum and other family members out every day to spend time together, to be with each other, to mind each other.
I grew up in a small border town in Northern Ireland about 6 miles from the sea and as a child we would sometimes go on day trips to many of the seaside towns near us. That was always such a treat for all of us as children. So, for lack of knowing what else to do, and almost by instinct, that’s where we went.
I suddenly saw these places in a whole new way. They were stunningly beautiful, in a way that I had never noticed before. The scenery was breathtaking and I kept saying over and over as we drove around each bend in the road ‘It is so beautiful here’. I think the family were ready to scream if I said it one more time. I don’t know if it was the fact that my brother had died and that I was questioning my own longevity or if it was that the scenery was always that beautiful and I had just never noticed but suddenly I saw it with different eyes, I wanted to see all of it and relish in it. My newfound appreciation of my homeland and particularly the area I grew up in is something else to be thankful for. Life, for the moment at least, has become a search for things to be grateful for.
I’m back in London again now and still working but the pain continues unabated, as I am sure it will for some time. It arrives like an unexpected guest, at the most inconvenient of times, and, just like an uninvited guest, I never know how long it will stay. I only hope that friends, family and colleagues can please bear with me.
I’d like to take this opportunity and this platform to ask all of you if you have been putting off a health check or if you know someone who should have one, to please see your doctor or health practitioner and have your heart, and everything else checked, it is time well spent. The British Heart Foundation can provide all kinds of help and support for those who have issues or concerns about their heart heath.
Also, if you are dealing with grief, or again know someone who is, there are lots of great charities and organisations out there that can help. One of our on-air guests, Linda Magistris works with The Good Grief Trust who can help people find the support they may need at a very difficult time.
Before I go, I wanted to mention that we have a tradition in Ireland, after someone dies of printing a Memory Card. I’m not sure if that is something that you do here? You put a picture of the person in there with some details of their life and a prayer. We also added An Irish Blessing on my brother Feargal’s that I’d like to share. Many of you may already know it but I think it is worth sharing with you and then you in turn can share it with someone you may not be seeing for a while:
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rains fall soft upon your fields, and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
Until the next time we meet, take care of yourselves and remember to tell the ones you love that they are loved, you never know when you’ll get the chance again.