Michaela’s death brings back memories of the Manuela anguish

It has been a tragic week for the entire country, a dark start to the New Year, and for once, the concern is not about wealth or deteriorating economic circumstances. Right from the weekend, when the former Galway student was mauled to death by a dog in Malaysia, from when that joyous hen party turned tragic in Kinsale, from when two bodies were found shot in Limerick, an air of gloom has pervaded the entire country.

This is an air that was accentuated on Monday evening, then the news was released that Michaela Harte had died on her honeymoon. And as the week went on, the circumstances became even more tragic as more and more information was revealed about how she spent her final minutes.

The trauma on the faces of her family, the shock felt by her community at the loss of an only daughter overseas on what should have been a joyous trip served to give us here in Galway some indication of how Hans and Arlette Riedo must have felt when their little treasure, the light of their lives, the bearer of all their hopes was extinguished on a trip here to this city.

There is a stage in every parent’s life when they know that they have prepared their children for the world and that it is time to let them go. For the Riedos, that moment came when she travelled to Galway to learn English, to discover herself, and to take the first steps on the rest of her life. How that turned out, we all remember.

So too for the Hartes. Michaela was one of those kids who we all saw growing up on the playing fields of Ireland, supporting her hero, her Dad. She progressed into an articulate young woman, a consummate professional, a worthy representative of her province, her county, and her culture. She was what every young girl wanted to be; adored by her family, admired by males, a beauty queen, a scholar, a teacher, an honest to God Irishwoman.

When she married at the end of last year, her family must have been extremely proud that she had turned out exactly exactly how they had hoped. And as she left for her honeymoon, they must have said a prayer of thanks for the joy she had given them; they must have hoped that she would encounter the same joy in her own journey into life.

Like Hans and Arlette’s, their life will never be the same again. Their pain will be intense and will not ease in the short term. It will be there in the pit of their stomachs each morning they wake. The protracted nature of Michaela’s return to Ireland and a subsequent legal case will mean closure is a long long way away.

Their pain is no greater than that felt by the parents of all the others who died this week, in Malaysia, in Limerick, in Kinsale. All we can do is think of them and hope that in some small way, they get some semblance of relief so that they can celebrate the lives of those whom they have lost.


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