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MARY-JANE DUNCAN: When tragedy comes for the young

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This was supposed to be a frivolous column full of the birthday joys for the biggest bam. Nineteen.

The final year of her teens entered into without me having left her at a supermarket by accident or lost her in a crowded airport. Both things I have lost sleep worrying over.

Now she’s almost in her twenties, we are comfortable to laugh that if anyone had abducted her as a child , they’d have returned her within half an hour due to their bleeding ears.

Almost 20 and no wicked scars

Almost twenty and only a few broken bones and no wicked, interesting scars. No major illnesses. No scholarly disasters.

Some great jobs, a driving test, a wee banged up motor and a steady enough lad.

Most important of all, a great group of pals right up through school and onwards to university. Any distances between them easily crossed thanks things like Snapchat or WhatsApp.

So was I hanging out the bunting and blowing balloons before her birthday?  I should have been.

I always promised myself my kids would have their special day each and every year regardless of what age they’d achieved.

They’d be treated like queens and lavished with even more love and attention than usual.

The sad reality

Instead, the day before her special day, she was attending the funeral of one of her friends.

Coming to terms with the terrible tragedy of a young life taken too soon.

At only 19, this wasn’t her first funeral, having to been to her beloved Papa’s and adored Grand Uncles.  It IS however the first introduction to the brutal finality of life.

The unfairness and cruelty of it all.  Loosing a loved one is a blow at any age but when death comes knocking long before he’s due, there is just no reasoning.

A brilliant, kind, handsome young man, with too many years before him to even contemplate, was taken too soon from this world by a tragic, senseless accident.

I only knew him fleetingly but any encounters we had were full of polite manners and broad grins.

Watching them all grown up together.  From teeny tiny primary kids to gangly teens, and finally, cocky, confident young adults tentatively dipping their toes into the big wide world.  Just out of reach but close enough to run home if the need arises.

Dreams of their future

We spend years spent wondering, from the safe distance parents are afforded, who might end up being Prime Minister?

Who might invent the cure for the common cold?  Who might end up married, living in the same village with their kids attending the same school they met at?

My heart is simply broken for them all, am just grateful they’re such a close group of friends.  And, more importantly, it is broken for his parents.

Yet I wouldn’t know how to reach out without sounding as if I was just handing out platitudes.  Scrambling for phrases less patronising than ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ and other comments for politeness sake.

Dealing with it all

Because in a situation like this, who the hell has the right to tell anyone how to feel.  Anger, sorrow, fury, despair.  Laughter AND tears.  All completely acceptable.  All expected.  All, strangely welcome, if only to distract from the numbness.

I lost a treasured cousin at a similar young age and it sent me spinning off my axis.

The grief associated with the overwhelming need to live a life in honour of the one so tragically taken from her. Because of this, I can relate to what biggest kid and her friends are going through, but as for what to say to his parents? I shamefully have nothing.

Please know we care

Considering I’m paid for words, you’d think I’d muster something sincere that might bring a little comfort. This is not my grief, nor is it about me.

So, for those affected by this.  Please know, there are others thinking of you, who don’t know you well but carry you in their hearts a little tighter for now.

His name will be remembered, he will be spoken of and remembered often and lives will be lived and lived well, with him in mind.

Those we hold in our arms for a short while, we hold in our hearts forever.

Louise Torrens 25.12.1998

Rory Brownlee 19.06.2022