It’s the empty beds that will hurt the most.
You pass by them and you hope that once again they will be filled, that there will be a shape under the duvet, a shock of darkness on the pillow. A shape that doesn’t move in the morning time when it is time for school.
Each time you see the empty beds, you are reminded that here they lay, safe; here they incubated in the decade or so before they were exposed to the greater world, to the dangers that lay outside, to the many, many, wonders that lay outside. Before they went into the hands of fate, damned fate.
Here, in the bedroom, under the posters of their idols on the walls, under the watchful eyes of the likes of Stormzy and Ellie Goulding and Lewis Capaldi, they form the opinions that make them appreciate music, song, stardom, attraction, love, and heartbreak. On those walls their posters act as a window to a great world that is theirs for the taking.
Here they shape their own view of the world.
Here, they are safe.
And here, long after they are gone, is where they will be most missed.
Bedrooms remain shrines to people who leave long before they should. It is as if they are frozen in time, the likes and dislikes of the former occupants shaping the layout of the room, more than any other.
This week, we are all hurting at the loss of several young people in our county, our community, our country. We have all felt the pain of those parents who have lost children in varying ways. Here in Galway, we stand beside the parents of young Jessica Moore who passed away at the start of the week. Her funeral takes place this morning in Bullaun. We feel for the parents of the young Meath footballer and the three-year-old Cork boy who both died while on holidays in Spain; and of course, we were all emotionally invested in the search for Nora Quoirin which sadly ended with the discovery of her body on Tuesday morning.
Our pain is nothing compared to that of their families, but yet, it sits in our gut, a constant reminder of a dark week. A heaviness in all our hearts for the blanket of loss that has been thrown over us, our community, our people, our island.
There are words and there are words, but all we can do to absorb the enormity of what has happened is to send a communal hug to those who are grieving this week; those who are at the epicentre of that longing. Those who will howl out in pain and grief at what has happened; who will slap at walls, those whose lives will never be the same again, those who rail against the bloody unfairness of it all, those whose lives have been changed utterly in the blink of an eyelid.
They must know that we are taking some of their pain; that we are there for them too. To offer a bank of shoulders upon which they can cry.
Every parent hopes that it will never happen to them, but when it does, all we can offer is love and support, to huddle together against the cold wind and try to remember the warm joy that these children brought in their short lives. To acknowledge that they may have lived just a little time in our lives, but will live forever in our memories.
Give them strength this week. Give them strength.