“Patrick was a month away from his 16th birthday. His depression and anxiety started about a year and a half before he died. He was on and off. Sometimes he was in a great mood, messing around and then other days he was in a dark place. He did communicate some of his feelings to us and with the help of Pieta House and our support we could see him getting better. On the day, I said to him ‘I’m going to play poker with the lads’, he was playing on his PlayStation with two frien...ds in the house before I left. I told him not to stay up too long because he had school in the morning. He said he had already texted Fiona, a family friend, to take him to school in the morning and would finish up soon. I was about to leave the house and he said, ‘Dad?’ I backed up from the door and asked, ‘What’s up?’ He continued to play the game like nothing happened but I saw a little smirk on his face. I said, ‘you called me!’, ‘No, I didn’t!’ he said. So I proceeded to go on out the door and he called again. ‘Dad?’ His brother Robert told me ‘Dad, Patrick is calling you!’ So I backed in again, ‘What’s wrong with ya?’ ‘I didn’t call you!’ he said with a big grin on his face! I went, ‘Go on you messer!’ He’s in great spirits, I thought, and I left to play poker. It was only when I came home… as soon as I stepped into the house I felt something wasn't right. Even before I opened his door I felt he wasn’t there… I found him in the back garden, in our shed… It was so fast and unexpected. We were sure he was okay. When we were walking away from his funeral I said to Patrick’s mam that I had a strong sense that he knew he was gone, and his happiness and being himself again was part of an appreciation for us, to show that he was happy and content with his decision. I will never be able to figure out the reasons, but we feel an incredible responsibility to help Pieta House with whatever we can to make sure no other family will have to experience what we had to go through losing him… “
Eugene Smyth is a committee member with Darkness into Light 2018 for Pieta House, Preventing Suicide and Self Harm in Navan, Co.Meath. Darkness Into Light 2018 takes place across the country on Saturday, May 12th at 4.15am and is proudly supported by Electric Ireland.
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“I had to grow up quite fast. While my mom went to work, I became a second mom to my little brother and I started to cook and babysit him when I was eight. My childhood didn’t really exist in real life. It existed in my head though. I went off to explore worlds that weren’t my own and I would read books constantly whenever I could. It was a way of escaping my own reality. I was the kind of person who would put all my problems aside and keep going every day, waiting to return ...to my fantasy world. I would always say, 'Come on, it’s not that bad, you’ll be grand!' I never really acknowledged it, but I always had anxiety. When I was worried, it would go crazy in my head, circling around in there without a possible solution, I would start biting my nails and I would predict the worst outcomes of any situation. It got to the stage where I would have panic attacks. My brain would turn against me and it would interrupt my mind by constantly asking to solve all unsolvable issues in my head. I would chase people who don’t understand my value, as I didn’t understand my own either. I always wrote. It was always part of me. Being a poet is not separate from myself, because out of me the poetry flows. I was lucky to find somebody who I could trust enough to completely fall apart. And boy, did I fall apart… I was a mess, but he supported me from the very beginning to restructure myself from the bottom. He supported me through therapy, he supported me through my dark times and he helped me to face and solve the unsolvable issues in my head. He helped me to understand that there is nothing wrong with me and to value myself for what I am. I am a poet with two worlds. They are now in peace and both are amazing inside and out.“
"Despite being diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, I've got a masters with a first class honours degree from UCD, a job in an investment banking company and an amazing boyfriend."
“What is the best thing abut being in a wheelchair?”
“The ability to prove people wrong, every day."
“It was sixty euros, man! My very first investment in Ireland! Call me crazy but just look at it! I was looking online for a bike to cycle to work, you know, one of those with a basket on the front? Then, I came across this one. I contacted the seller and he told me: ‘You are not buying a bike, you are buying a project’. When he said that, I was already hooked! It's rusty, heavy as hell, and doesn’t even have a break, but man… it was sixty euros! I work on it in my free time and soon it’s going to look amazing! The only problem is that I still don’t have a bike to ride to work...”
“I’ve been on a boat where people argue all the time and five to ten days out on the sea can turn into hell if you don’t chose your crew wisely. But when you do, you're cracking jokes, you're having fun, time flies. I’m out at sea most of the time for over 35 years now. After three rounds of five days I take a weekend off so it’s safe to say that it is much more of a lifestyle than a job. I love my wife, but after a long weekend on shore, when I feel the waves under my feet again, I really feel home."
“I used to work on the Dublin Port, 24 hours on and 48 hours off shifts. She used to love that. She loved that we could spend a full day together and on those days we always went on a date somewhere. When she was going shopping, she always brought me with her. She had a driving license and, although she was a good driver, she always told me that she felt safer when I was beside her. I was always happy to keep her company. Our story was a real love story… She got cancer in her... early 50s and passed away a little over a year later. We were together for 27 years. After she died, I looked after our children and was a widower for four years. Christmas times were the hardest. When she knew she was dying, she always told me: 'when I die, you get yourself another lady!' That was just her personality, you know? One day, just before Christmas, I thought I would give it a try. I knew a lady but only from seeing her around. I heard she became a widow around the same time as me, so I looked her up in the telephone book and I asked her out. She said no, but a couple of hours later she called me and said: 'OK'. Later, she told me that it was her son who changed her mind. We went on a date; a first date again after 31 years. I felt like a child I was so excited. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I believe she felt the same way, but eventually we started to talk and ended up having a great time. We have now been married for 22 years. We both know we haven’t got the same love like before and we respect each other's memories. She is very good to me and I am very good to her too. Sometimes, it feels like I have lived two different lives… and I feel lucky that I could share my life with two wonderful ladies…”
“One morning in 2009, I woke up with a slightly sore throat. As a practicing barrister for over 30 years, I was always a busy man so getting sick wasn’t an option. I tried all the usual home remedies but it didn’t seem to go away. After a few weeks, I paid a visit to my GP but he was unsure what it was, so he gave me a throat spray and recommended a throat specialist. When I looked him up, I discovered he was actually an Oncologist Throat Specialist. I had been smoking for ab...out 40 years at that stage and never even contemplated I could have cancer. A few weeks later, I was diagnosed with throat cancer. I had barely accepted the news before they started my course of treatment. I had an unexpected reaction to the chemo and after they took some more tests, they discovered I had kidney cancer as well. The whole experience gave me a lot of clarity about life. I underwent the treatment and it worked. I dealt with it, and ultimately, I was one of the lucky ones. End of story, right? Not really… Not long after I finished the chemo, I developed this urge inside me to give back, to find a way to thank all the doctors, nurses, family and friends who worried and looked after me for all those months. I know now what it feels like to go through chemo. You are exhausted, sick, and you can’t drive. I heard so many stories from cancer patients who had no friends or family available to look after them 24/7 and some could not afford the taxi to and from their hospital to attend their treatment, which could happen multiple times a week. As a barrister, I worked from lots of different locations, from libraries and cafés to in and out of the courthouse. For me, dropping someone off to the hospital was simply like a commute to work… So here I am at 67, with one less kidney and with two jobs.“
Irish Cancer Society's Volunteer Driver Service helped 1,300 people get to their chemotherapy appointments last year – facilitating over 12,000 journeys. This is one of the services that donations on #daffodilday help to fund. Find out more in the comment section.
“No one has ever survived falling from the Cliffs of Moher apart from me, so I do consider myself a very lucky guy. One day after school when I was 13, myself, my brother and one of our friends cycled over to the cliffs, where we wanted to go down to the beach on one of those goat paths. It took us about an hour to get halfway, but then, as my brother explained, I slipped and fell about fifteen meters straight onto the rocks. I have no memory whatsoever of that day or the fol...lowing two weeks. My brother got down to me and our friend ran all the way back up the cliff and out onto the road to stop a bus, and luckily there was a doctor from Australia on it who came straight to help. They brought down whatever they could to keep me warm, but it took another six hours to rescue me because of the fog, and the helicopter nor the boat could get close enough to the shore. When they realised it wouldn’t work, they sent someone to the three pubs in Doolin to get all the men they could find. They needed all the help possible to set up a tripod system to lift me back to the top. There were 40-50 people working to rescue me. I fell at about 6pm and they rescued me only after midnight. I broke everything on my left side; my legs, my knees, my ribs and even my jaw and nose. Luckily my brain had no injuries. I was all wired up for two months, they kept me in a coma for two weeks, and I even had to learn how to walk again. It went into the news, and Tv3 actually reconstructed the whole story and made a short documentary about it. I was a well known kid in Doolin, you know? The helicopter pilot is retired now, but he decided to write a book, called Nine Lives, about his search and rescue experiences. He dedicated a whole chapter to me, as it was one of the biggest operations at that time. Since my case the Doolin rescue centre grew from a 20 by 20 foot shed and a boat, to one of best equipped rescue centres in the world. Without all these people I wouldn’t be here today, and I am so grateful for the work they do. Not just the people that day, but the coast guards all over Ireland who work so hard as volunteers and save so many lives.”
“The other day I was at the bus stop, and a lady was waiting a few metres away from me. She looked very sad so I decided to speak to her. I wasn’t even acknowledging that she was sad, I just asked her how long she’s waiting for the bus. She said it was a while now, and then we just chatted about every day things. And she seemed alright. When the bus arrived I sat down and she sat behind me. About five minutes later she asked if she can sit next to me, and from then on she cri...ed all the way to Dublin. She was very upset about her daughter, who she said had gotten involved with the wrong crowd and was out for nights without saying where she went. She was so worried and just didn’t really know what to do. I think she just needed someone to talk to. I read a book once that said, ‘A stranger is just a friend you don’t know.’ I may never see her again, but I know in that moment I was her best friend all the way to Dublin.”
“I used to cycle down to my cousin’s almost every day after school, and one of those days I was pedalling down on an old sand path in the dark, head in the clouds when I suddenly saw three people in front of me. I didn’t get the time to use the brakes, so I knocked one of them down. At the time I didn’t know I’d spend the rest of my life with that person. We had twelve children and lost two of them. We lost one to cancer and the other to suicide. Only a year and a half apart.... It was the most devastating time in our life, but we supported each other the whole way through. A new light came into our lives when we heard of Pieta House. We thought, okay, they’re doing an important job, so we wanted to help. I’ve been coaching athletics forever, so I thought it would be great to organise a fundraising walk or run. It wasn’t easy, but we really enjoyed doing it. After seeing over five-hundred people show up, we thought it was a remarkable success. Nine years on, organising Darkness Into Light is down to a fine art. It’s now done in over 150 venues all over the world. I never thought that one day I’d be standing in Phoenix Park looking at thousands of people, knowing that each and every one of them has something in common. It’s a wonderful feeling and it helped us deal with the loss of our sons a bit better. None of this would’ve been possible without my wife’s support. I’ve achieved a lot in my life, but if you ask me, I’d say knocking her down that night was the greatest achievement I ever made.”
A throwback to Pieta House, Preventing Suicide and Self Harm, 2017 Campaign
“My father was an alcoholic. He used to beat us up regularly, so there wasn’t too much happiness at home. I started walking simply because I didn’t want to be in the house. My parents were together for 40 years, but people never knew what was really going on. He was a completely different person outside. My brother and sister both married and moved out quickly, and I didn’t want to leave my mother alone with him, so I stayed. I was 50 when he died, but my mother died long bef...ore him. He was a heavy drinker almost all his life, yet he died of skin cancer. I struggled on and off with depression, and when he died everything was suddenly calm. I still suffer with it from time to time, but I walk it off. I walk at least four or five hours a day, and on Sundays I walk into town and back. You have to prepare yourself for marathons somehow, you know? I’ve done fifteen of them now, but I’ve yet to double that figure!”
“Forty minutes walk every day, whatever the weather! I call it 'activation energy'; it’s the energy that’s necessary to get me up and running to start the day. Once the hard part is over and you're out and about, it's plain sailing from there."
"The other day I was reading here like I do every day, and the postman came and said he has a letter for me. I told him not to mess with me, I'm reading a serious book at the minute. He said he is not messing, it's from Alaska. 'It's addressed to the Bookman on Nassau Street. That must be you!' I'm sitting here reading for eight years and now I have an address, that is some achievement I thought... It turned out that it was a couple I met a few weeks before, they were visiting here from England, we chatted a bit and they told me about moving to Alaska... You meet some beautiful people here you won't believe..."
“It’s a real challenge even to get on it but with each challenge, there is a sense of accomplishment. I teach pottery to early school leavers. I always tell them that they should never be afraid to try new things and to make mistakes. Failing is part of the learning process. Failing makes you more tenacious and determined… that's probably the best life advice I can possibly give to them anyway.”