I Hate Goodbyes

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Well that’s right folks, this is going to be an emotional post!  It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently and today it was brought home in a rather emotional way for me.  I absolutely hate good byes.  Even though I know the people I have said goodbye to are ones I will see again, but still there is pain there.  Why I hear you ask?

It really struck me this evening that the people I was saying goodbye to are family members that I have never met before.  They have been visiting us all here in Northern Ireland for a week.  Every one of us has bonded and drawn closer to each other in a very profound and meaningful way.  This would be alright and something which one would not have to get too emotional over.  However, something much more profound has occurred.

The more I thought about it today the more I asked myself; where does my love go?  Certainly my faith…yes absolutely my friends, but perhaps the biggest avenue for my love is my family.  I am tremendously blessed beyond measure that I have a family that I can love and that love me.  When I say family, I don’t just mean the immediate parents and siblings…I don’t even just mean cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents…I don’t even mean great uncles or aunts, second cousins, distant relatives etc.  I am blessed in that I meet people that I am told are relatives and that is all there is too it.  This week was a particular blessing to celebrate a great uncles 90th birthday and to spend time with these family members I had not met before.

Today we spent much time as a collection of family members having a day out together.  I love photographing such days.  Part of me enjoys my almost natural role in the background but I genuinely love being able to photograph such moments from the background.  The reason for this is because when you do so, when others are not aware that they are being photographed then you see them as they truly are; without pretences or acts.  When you photograph your family in such a way then you see how truly beautiful they are; individually and collectively.

My family are my heart.  When I meet new family members and spend time with them it is almost like finding new parts to your heart.  The more family you find the more complete your heart becomes.  Certainly that is true of me.  Then when you have to say goodbye, it is almost like that piece of your heart which you have discovered and grown to love has to leave you.  It is almost painful…no, it is painful.  Even though I know we shall meet again I think perhaps the pain which is felt can almost be considered selfish because you just want your heart to be complete once more…

Alas for now, we must say goodbye, if but only for a little while.  The good news however is that for those new beloved family members my heart goes with you wherever you go.  You are my heart and all my love goes with you.

I Stand With the SDLP

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Recently I composed a poem about Margaret Ritchie of the SDLP.  I was invited to pen one on the SDLP as a whole…the poem has been changed slightly to reflect the result of the recent General Election…I hope you enjoy it and see just why I stand firm with the SDLP.  I dedicate this poem to the three Members of Parliament who lost their seats in this election and those members of the SDLP who blazed a trail for so many of us to follow.  I thank them for the service they have given and the example they have set for us all.

 

In a time of woe it seemed all was lost

Trouble reigned, innocence paid the cost

The land and its people were each torn apart

Yet from this darkness was born a heart.

A young gallant group both daring and tough

Came together crying “Enough’s enough!”

Ready and willing to take up the fight

To work to end our troubled plight.

From Belfast town came Hendron, Devlin and Fitt

There was Paddy O’Donoghue and Currie with grit,

Young Seamus Mallon provided a calm

From Derry came Hume the great sainted man.

A party was born which called for peace

It is everyone’s task, the fighting must cease!

We must move on together or die one by one

The journey has started and the work has begun.

There were so many others in those early days

Too many to mention so much we could say

They each did their bit to complete the task

To bring Ireland together, to get agreement passed.

The struggle went on with much energy.

We still had poor housing and poverty,

Injustice, unemployment, inequality,

All of these were faced by the SDLP.

But all in the party were ready and able

To keep all engaged with talks at the table.

The road was not easy it had many bends

But we’re working for peace, Yes that is our end!

Then somehow, somehow after much work and stress

An agreement was decided; we could clean up the mess

It was put the people to have their say

And the people said Yes on that Good Friday.

We’re twenty years on and the party remains

Now Colum Eastwood is holding the reins,

We’ll trust in him as we did John Hume

For he fights for us all from the womb to the tomb.

There’s so many councillors on the ground

Doing their bit, they don’t half get around

We’ve activists and folks like Ronan McCay

And Gerry Cosgrove the indomitable General Secretary.

We’ve Justin McNulty in Newry town

Colin and Sinead in my own South Down

Dolores Kelly holds Upper Bann

And West Tyrone has Dan McCrossan.

In March Pat Catney made history

When he was elected to serve Lagan Valley

Belfast North is defended by Nichola Mallon

While Colum is joined by Mark H Durkan.

We’ve John Dallat in East Derry’s core

And Patsy McGlone the mighty gaeilgeoir.

Claire Hanna is the one for Belfast South

Who epitomises the party’s youth.

In Westminster we had our three MPs

Alasdair, Mark and Margaret Ritchie

They were all up to the task you can ask anyone

For the SDLP work is never done.

They worked for the marginalised and the forgotten

They exposed injustice and systems which were rotten

They rallied against foreign airstrikes from above

Yes!  They deserve our thanks and our love!

But now they’ve been ousted by the politics of fear

And extremism on both sides is shifting into gear

Where are we heading, who among us can tell?

Are we all on a one way road to a Brexit Hell?

I stand firm with the SDLP

I’ll not abandon them in this time of need.

I have hope in my heart that a new day will dawn

When people will finally listen to where we went wrong.

The peace which we want is never out of reach

There’s just more to do and more lessons to teach,

Every one of us is sister or brother

We’ve no call for hate, we can love one another.

The SDLP will always be there for you,

Whether you’re Muslim, Christian, Atheist or Jew.

We’re the party that works for every single strand,

We’ll always have hope for our New Ireland.

 

 

Professor Patrick Johnston: In Memoriam

Patrick JohnstonIt is with the deepest sadness that I had learned of the passing of Professor Patrick Johnston; President and Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast.  In the coming days I am certain there will be many tributes paid to this quietly heroic man who worked tirelessly in cancer treatment and care.  There will also be much said about Professor Johnston’s contribution to Queen’s University.

I wish to express my deep sadness at Professor Johnston’s passing.  Many will know that Professor Johnston was one of the contributor’s to my book Space for Grace.  When I initially made contact with his office regarding the possibility of an interview I did so in full knowledge that I was a novice as far as journalism goes.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Professor Johnston had politely declined to take part in the book.  I was absolutely delighted that he did in fact agree to take part.

When I met with Professor Johnston to conduct the interview I could not have been received in a more welcoming and open way.  We chatted for over an hour about university life, the nature and need of faith in a university setting, living in a diverse society, the treatment of cancer, and more.  I could not get over how candid Professor Johnston was.  More than that in my own questions and responses to his words Professor Johnston was incredibly engaging and gave me the impression that my own contributions were genuinely meaningful.  At the opening Mass for the Academic Year 2016/17 I couldn’t have been happier to be able to present Professor Johnston with a copy of the book itself and was delighted to see how happy he seemed to be to receive this.

There can be no mistake, through his openness and the kindness extended to me my own sense of purpose in this life has been vastly improved.  I shall be forever grateful for his life and for his work.  I shall remember him in my prayers as I shall remember his family and extended family.  Some of the words he offered in his reflection seem to have a greater poignancy for me tonight.  In our time together Professor Johnston reminded me (and all who have read the work):

“I continue to be delighted, surprised and re-energised by what individuals can do when they all work together for a common good; whether it’s health, education, social justice or innovation and enterprise.  The impact of individuals working together, creating an energy and a path for good is really what faith and religion are about, though often it is not perceived in that way.

You have to accept and be pragmatic about what you can achieve within certain environments but it doesn’t mean you have to accept the here and now. It’s about creating hope and creating ambition which is also where religion is very important because it is partly the unknown.  You’ve got to believe in something to aspire to and part of that is faith.  This is one of the lessons I learnt in my early medical career in dealing with cancer patients, that the most important thing for a cancer patient wasn’t the treatment; it was that someone cared for them and was listening to them, that they had hope. 

I’m very enthusiastic about the importance of faith in shaping people. Our faith shapes how we interact with each other and how we deal with suffering and the daily challenges that make up living. That’s where you see the richness of what priests and the Chaplaincy do day-to-day. We don’t hear enough about what priests and volunteers in faith based organisations do for society. Those people who are quietly working away day to day consoling families, helping the poor in society, supporting individuals with terminal disease, staying up at night, providing selfless care to individuals when they are at their most vulnerable. These are the people who are helping to nurture educate and shape society. They’re not looking for accolades, they’re not looking for badges of distinction; they’re just doing it because they’re passionate about it, they care and they believe it’s the right thing to do. Those are the sorts of acts and the type of leadership and commitment we need to both herald and value more as a society. If it wasn’t for those people and their commitment, society would be in real trouble. It’s amazing what hope and faith can achieve.”

Thank you Professor  Patrick Johnston for your life, your faith and hope.  May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.  May choirs of angels welcome you and lead you to the bosom of Abraham; and where Lazarus is poor no longer may you find eternal rest.

Professor Patrick Johnston rest in peace.  God bless you.

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The Black Family Reunion – All That I Love About Ireland

Imagine in your head for a moment having the opportunity to meet someone who you have looked up to for many years.  Someone you have admired greatly.  Someone that you have up on a pedestal.  Someone you would dearly love to meet but never dared hope that your paths would ever cross.  Now imagine the opportunity has presented itself in which you might actually just meet this person.  Finally I should like you to imagine that feeling or encounter and then double it!  Such an occasion took place last night in my life…

IMG_2126.JPGMy sister Aoife and I journeyed to Dublin to attend the Black Family Reunion concert in Liberty Hall.  For many years now I have been a huge fan of Mary and Frances Black.  Not to mention having had quite the crush on Mary Black for many years…and still do!  After the concert we had an opportunity to meet the family and chat to them.  Finally that moment in my life which I never dared would take place was here.  I had the opportunity to actually speak with Mary and Frances Black…what did I come out with I hear you ask?!

Mary was the first one I approached…she greeted me warmly and very kindly signed my cd…and the words suddenly tripped out of my mouth before I could stop them…

“Ehh…we’re O’Reilly’s!” In my head I could hear myself shouting “Stop Dom stop! That isn’t what you wanted to say!”  Yet the words decided that they would keep on making their way out of my mouth before checking with Sense if they were meant to do so yet… “Yes, we’re from Newcastle…County Down!  We saw you in Belfast nine years ago…tonight…it was truly wonderful.”  What!? What even…the poor woman! Who is this stumbling stuttering fool making absolutely no sense in front of her!?  Why didn’t you tell her about the first time you listened to her sing One in a Million?  How you had to stop the car because you were crying so hard at the absolute beauty of her performance and storytelling.  That might have been an interesting story to relay!  Yet she was remarkably kind and grateful.  Mary was only too happy to pose for a photograph and we moved on.  I saw Frances up ahead and thought I would say hello…perhaps I’d have better luck with my words there…

I approached and said “Hello Frances…” so far so good I think to myself…I know whatIMG_2128.JPG you’re thinking dear reader.  How did I follow this one up!?  Well naturally with a “We follow each other on Twitter…”  Yes because what else would I say! In my head I found myself saying “No!! Don’t do it again! What is wrong with you, fool?  You have addressed crowds of hundreds of people and do so with total calm and a cool head!  Why not now?”  Frances was, like her sister, nothing but kind, welcoming and utterly charming.  We chatted about how Aoife and I were celebrating our thirtieth birthday and had travelled up from Newcastle for the show.  Why not tell Frances about how you were sat awestruck during the show as she beautifully sang All the Lies and how it is only now that you understand and appreciate the song?  Would that not have made some sense?!  Alas!

As we made our way down the stairs to leave I found myself thinking, Why?  Why didn’t I tell them?  Really if I had taken the time to stop and think then I would potentially have been able to tell both Mary and Frances just what the music of their family means to me.  Unfortunately I did not.  Fortunately I now have the opportunity to at the very least write about what their music means to me and hope that possibly they may read these words.  I never dared I would meet them…perhaps I can hope against hope that they will in fact read these words…what does the music of the Black Family mean to me I hear you ask?  Well quite simply…the music of the Black Family embodies everything which I love and hold so dearly about mother Ireland.

Shall we proceed?  I think we shall…

As I mentioned previously, the concert itself took place in Liberty Hall theatre.  This is significant as Liberty Hall was home to the Irish Civilian Army in the early twentieth century.  These brave men and women who struggled and fought with every fibre of their being for the rights of workers.  Many of these are rights which I certainly take for granted often in my daily life.  Even to be able to take the time to remember those heroes of Irish history who are oft times forgotten is time well spent and it is something I plan to remedy in my own life now.

The concert begins as many great music sessions do.  Somebody begins by giving us a song.  In this case it began with Shay, followed by Martin, Mary, Michael and eventually Frances.  Every one in their turn is given the opportunity to give their party piece as it were.  In between is a chance to hear stories of the songs themselves and what they mean to the performer.  At any given time one member of the family could be telling a story and another member might interject with another point, thought or joke.  It is such a lovely dynamic.  Sitting watching the family perform it is clear that you are indeed in the presence of a family as you watch how they interact with each other throughout the song.

There was much reference to the family’s parents and the many lessons learnt from them, not to mention references to the next generation of Black Family performers who were present at the concert.  It almost feels as though you are sitting in the middle of a family gathering and not a concert.  It was a real delight for me to see Roisin O’Reilly and Aoife Scott, daughters of Mary and Frances respectively taking photographs throughout the show.  They are artists whose progress I have followed with great enthusiasm and will continue to follow.

The music itself is a tremendous gift.  I could not begin to express every single feeling brought up by the music which I experienced last night.  What I can say however is that here in Ireland we have been given a most remarkable tradition of storytelling through song.  We are a nation of poets and singers.  We are revolutionaries and peacemakers.  We are the life of the party and yet carry great sadness.  We are one of the strongest people imaginable yet we have been oppressed and subjugated for so long.  However when we look at the history of Ireland the great thread that runs through our story is not just our temerity and unwillingness to yield to those who would try to step over us, but also our compassion and kindness for those we meet.  We are a nation still very much in tune with the land from which we have come.  We are not afraid to cry.  We are not afraid to say when our hearts have been broken.  We are not afraid to speak out against injustice and wrongdoing.  We are a nation of Lovers and Dreamers.  I am proud to call myself an Irishman.

If you were to ask me to illustrate the Spirit of Ireland I would tell you to listen to the music of such artists as Liam Clancy, Luke Kelly and the Black Family (amongst many!)  As one who enjoys singing a ballad or two I am fully aware of the great legacy they have given us.  To those of you who may be reading this that enjoy singing songs of Ireland but are unsure of yourself, I urge to remember how important your craft is.  You have no idea whose heart you are touching through your beautiful voice.  If you are up performing I invite you to take a look into the audience and find the guy who is sitting with his elbows on his knees propping his head up…look at the tears in his eyes and the smile on his face.  Perhaps you will catch his eye for just a moment and realise that yes…he gets it.  He has found the connection he has been seeking.  Your music has touched his heart and filled it with love and joy, or sorrow.  Perhaps you are singing about injustice and see that yes he gets it.  For the time you are singing you see that you have made this young man realise that he is alive.  Whether he has numerous moments such as this or just this moment is irrelevant…because right now, he is alive and knows that his life is a gift…he is Home and at Peace…

Why didn’t I tell them?

The Encounter


Occasionally I put pen to paper and jot down my thoughts on small events which to some would be meaningless…to me they mean the world. The following took place on a bus a few years ago and this briefest of encounters held me captive for what felt like a lifetime…a very wonderful lifetime. Still I do not know who she is, perhaps I have met her since, regardless! The human heart only seeks love…belonging! This moment will live with me forever…
By apparent chance you sit beside me

I had seen you go climb up

Now here we are

Shoulder to shoulder.
Like mirror images we sit

Heads inclined, earphones in

Occasionally shifting ourselves

Growing closer.
The bus rumbles on

The sky is getting dark

I put my head back

Eyes closed.
At times I think I feel

Your eyes on me

Suddenly I am hit

With sweetest perfume.
Who could you possibly be?

This beautiful girl

With the golden hair and

Deep dark eyes?
I look in the window pane

And catch a reflection

For one eternal moment

Eyes meeting.
You reach up to fix your hair

The beautiful curve of your neck

Your nimble fingers in hair

Working magic.
The bus reaches its destination

We gather up our things

After an all too brief thank you and smile

You go…

‘Twas Beauty Saved the Beast

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Anyone who knows me will know that Disney’s Beauty and the Beast holds a particularly special place in my heart.  In fact I have blogged about this film already here on the blog and how I continue to hold this film in such high regard as I approach my thirtieth birthday (https://dominicoreilly25.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/approaching-30-laying-my-cards-out/)

Tonight however I have returned from seeing the latest Disney live action reimagining of a classic.  I was lucky enough to be treated to a night at the cinema by my twin sister and her wife.  We had a wonderful evening together, there was plenty of craic but I was constantly aware that the visit to the cinema would be an emotional one.  This story really does mean that much to me; so much so that it can be difficult to put into words often enough.  However I think it best to make the attempt while the emotions of the film are still fresh in my heart.  I hope that there are no apparent spoilers however if such a thing concerns you please read no further until you have seen the film!

Before I begin I should mention one of the elements to this film which I absolutely adored was that it in fact stayed truer to the source material that the 1991 version. The themes of stealing a rose, asking Beauty to dinner, the link between Gaston and the Beast…they’re all here! 

What I should like to do is to take a look at the two main characters of the film and what I have learned from them…indeed what lessons in self they have reminded me of.Emma Watson

Belle is to my mind one of Disney’s greatest heroines.  Voiced by Paige O’Hara in the 1991 classic Belle exuded a wonderful independence and passion.  It’s one of the elements of Disney I think we tend to get a bit mixed up: Belle isn’t exactly a Princess.  It is also important to remember that it is Belle who saves the Beast…on a number of occasions in fact!

Emma Watson’s portrayal of Belle in this new vision is no different.  She remains independent and passionate.  However now she embodies several other qualities which while they were not lacking from the 1991 animated version are brought out in a much stronger way through this vision.  Now Belle is absolutely fearless, feminist, feminine and honest to the core.  The many dynamics which exist within the film between Belle and the three male characters in her life is deeply affecting.  She treats her father Maurice with nothing but kindness, patience and gratitude for how he has raised her; so much so that she is willing to give up her freedom and in many ways her youth for his life.  She is patient with Maurice’s numerous eccentricities and does not judge him for these, but rather uses them as an opportunity to show him how much she cares for him.  Finally she expresses her gratitude often for how Maurice has brought her up.  A beautiful example of how we are to treat our parents and those who care for us.

In regard to Gaston I believe it is in this vision that we see some of the clearest difference between the animated Belle and the live action vision.  There are certain lines of dialogue from the animated version that are now missing.  They are significant as their absence only highlights further that Belle is a wonderfully strong icon of feminine strength and kindness.  Her honesty with Gaston gives him the opportunity to grow into a kinder person, yet he constantly fights her on this.  In many ways Gaston’s fate is a tragic one as although Belle does not have any romantic attachment to him she does in fact care for him.  Who knows, perhaps she may even go so far as to love him?Dan Stevens

Finally we have the Beast.  I believe the Beast and Gaston are inextricably linked.  Masterfully portrayed by Dan Stevens this offering of the Beast is to my mind, totally different to 1991 animated version.  Why so?  Because we can witness the tragic nature of the Beast to a greater extent in this version which was not brought to the fore so much in the animated version.  We see that this is someone who was once very much a man who had it all and has had his entire identity wiped away.  This tragedy is brought to the fore in the all new song for the film Evermore (which I hasten to add I am currently learning to add to my repertoire!)  However where Beast differs from Gaston is where he begins to cease resisting the kindness of Belle but now rather seeks to complement her loving kindness.

This is represented beautifully for me in the Tale as Old as Time dance sequence in which when Belle approaches the Beast she curtsies to him.  He in turn bows deeply to her.  Neither one is in a position of authority or dominance over the other but rather recognises the other as an equal and a partner in whom to share one’s love.  The Beast brings all this up with such honesty in his song Evermore.  The power in this scene cannot be downplayed.

The great lesson this has taught me is one of humility and recognising further the real beauty of the feminine.  We men are strange creatures.  Truly there exists a Beast within each of us…including me!  What is the Beast within me?  It is the Beast of Stubbornness, Selfishness and indeed the Beast of Irrationality!  To mention a few.  However I too am blessed in that I have been able many times in my life to have the opportunity to calm these beastly qualities and turn them into something of Beauty.  It is thanks to the powerful women in my life (both family and friends) that I have been able to achieve this.  I am forever grateful to them for that.  I have needed the example set for me by many men in my life however it really is so true that the male and female do complement each other.  The beautiful feminine brings out something beautiful in we males and likewise we too can bring something out of them which may have been previously thought as hidden.  Does this make you any less of a feminist?  I do not believe so.  We need each other just as we need strong figures of those of the same gender as us in our lives.

I have been asked if I think the live action version is better than the animated version.  I cannot answer this because I am watching this film as an adult who has grown up with the animated.  For me and where I am at present in my life I cannot wait to watch this film again and see what lessons it offers upon second viewing.  However simply to close I should like to harken back to the words sang so beautifully by Emma Watson and previously Paige O’Hara:

“Ahh! Isn’t this amazing?  It’s my favourite part because you’ll see; here’s where she meets Prince Charming, but she won’t discover that it’s him till chapter three…”

Be patient with love.  Be patient with yourself, those you love and those who love you.  Eventually, come what may they will see past the Beast to the Prince that resides within.  It is entirely up to you just how deep you want that Prince to hide…allow him to come to the surface and you will be stronger for it.  Be open to love and be open to loving.  That is the greatest lesson these films have taught me and I shall be forever grateful for them.

Most importantly: find someone to share this love with!

Much love to you all for taking the time to read this!

Twitter: @DominicOReilly

Facebook: Dominic O’Reilly Writer

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The Day I Decided to Stop Caring

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Today was the day it happened.  As the sun comes up in the morning none of us can foresee what shape the day will take.  We all have our plans as to how we hope the day will pan out and what we hope to achieve yet none of us have actually any clue as to what will happen in the course of any given day.  At one point today I found myself saying that which I never anticipated myself saying: I shall not care anymore.

I’ve had enough of it.  I’m only human after all.  Showing unconditional acts of kindness to others, wearing your heart on your sleeve, being honest, trusting people, seeing the best in others, listening, offering constructive advice, going the extra mile for others, giving them the benefit of the doubt and generally just actually giving a damn for those around you.  What’s the point of it all?  Why should I go out of my way for others?  It’s a bit of a tell tale sign when there are those for whom You are the one who has to be the first to make contact with them.  I have decided to stop caring.  After all, is it worth it?  Is it worth the heartache and the humiliation?  Is it worth the actual pain of caring for another…because after all if you genuinely care for someone else, then this will cost you.  It will be painful.  So is it worth it?

Funny enough, try as I might I just can’t do it.  I’ve failed.  I have tried consciously to not care for others and yet myself just will not allow me to do so.  It is simply in my nature to.  This is what I do: I will show You unconditional acts of kindness, I wear my heart on my sleeve, I am honest, I trust You, I see the best in You, I will listen to You, I offer advice to You,  I will go the extra mile for You, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and I will give a damn about You.  I will check in with you to see how You are.  I will care for You.

But what You will not see is that this will in fact cause me pain.  It will cause me pain because to see You smile I will have had to sacrifice something of myself.  Why do I do it?  Because You are worth it.  I have tried to not care about You and my heart won’t let me.  So what am I left with?  I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing…I just know that it is and that is all there is to it.  I care about You.  Whoever You are.  Whoever is reading this please know that I care about You.

Perhaps I am a failure.  To some people to care about others is a sign of weakness or being ‘soft’.   Not so with me.  To care for other people is all I know.  My heart is on the line…please be careful with it.

Sonnet 18

My Cry to Jahméne Douglas

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As many people will be aware a number of days ago recording artist Jahméne Douglas released a tweet in which he speaks about his life, it’s direction and his sense of brokenness.  Jahméne finishes by saying that all he has left is his desire to die.  He does not want this desire yet there it remains nonetheless.  What Jahméne has done takes incredible strength of heart and spirit.

I have chosen to pen this brief blog post simply to put forward a few words towards Jahméne in light of his recent post.  Some months ago when his album Unfathomable Phantasmagoria was released I blogged on the album for more than two week’s straight.  In that time I was blessed enough to receive communication from Jahméne thanking me for carrying out this piece of writing and encouraging me to continue with it.   As someone who has struggled for so long to find their own place in the world (and continue to do so) to receive these words of support and encouragement from this artist gave my spirit such  a lift and helped me believe that indeed my life does have a purpose.

Anyone that knows me will know that I have struggled myself with depression and anxiety over the years.  I was fortunate to receive counselling and  I cannot put into words how important this and the support of my family and friends was for me and continues to be.  While everyone of us is different  I can only say that my experience of this darkness was one in which my perspective on the world changed so drastically that I could not see a place in the world in which I wanted to exist.  Once this darkness takes hold of you it feels impossible to overcome it.  With the darkness closing in around you the path ahead seems clouded and uncertain.  How can the path ahead lead to something beautiful, true and good when all around it is veiled in sadness, bitterness and uncertainty?  How can we who have experienced this darkness return to a place of Love when so much Hurt has taken place?  It appears hopeless.  Yet in reality there is a Way.  While nothing can ever go back to the way it was we can at the very least decide what we want it to Be.  We do not have to be chained to our past or our future restricted.  We can live the life we choose and we can love it!  This is the freedom God has given to each of us.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life!

To Jahméne I offer these words: you do not struggle alone.  You are surrounded by love and by light.  No darkness can overcome you because as long as one speck of light remains then the darkness will always lose.  I believe that you have given us a gift in your art.  You have been a champion for those of us who are broken and sad.  You still have love to give and a cause to fight for.  You don’t have to fight this battle alone though.  Truly your light remains, however flickering it may be.

I close with the following words which were used when discussing Jahméne’s track Reach You:

As I said before I had an odd couple of days.  I have finished reading Mandy Thomas’ book You Can’t Run and I advise all to read it.  In fact I challenge you to read it.  Just be prepared for it.  I have always been a bit of a sensitive person who feels things incredibly strongly and personally…this book certainly shook me to my core and forced me to take a good look at myself.  Yet as I said in listening to Reach You I felt as though it had been written just for me.  As Jahméne beautifully attests: “There’s no shame in being afraid, in your darkest hour, you can reach out for me. Oh yes, take your time and I’ll lead the way, to a better life, a better love, old memories fade.”

Absolutely stunning.  After listening to…relistening to…and listening to some more this marvellous song I now have an item for my Bucket List…which I didn’t think I ever would!  I have said before I would like to interview Jahméne some day, but more than this, someday, some wonderful day, I would love to hear this sung live.  I want to be there and feel the music, to hear that wonderful piano theme over and over again.  I want to witness Jahméne perform his mind blowing fantastical feats of vocal capabilities which at first seem impossible!  Wouldn’t that be quite something?

Please Jahméne, we love you.  I beg you…I want to Reach You.

Blessings

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Approaching 30 – Laying My Cards Out

beauty-and-the-beast-disneyscreencaps-com-7353Some of my earliest memories of growing up take place while watching a film – whether at home (seeing Scream for the first time at home in 1997) or in the cinema.  The first film I saw in the cinema was an animated feature called Rock – a – Doodle.  To this day it is still a remarkably enjoyable show.  However my main memory of being utterly enthralled by the cinema was in 1991/1992 sitting in a dark cinema screen at Yorkgate, Belfast and watching what remains my favourite film of all time; Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  From those opening moments of memory accompanied by a soft piano, up to the absolute majesty of the film’s iconic ballroom scene Tale as old as Time to the film’s ending I was sat in absolute awe of the magnificence of this spectacular piece of filmmaking.  Who could forget the first time they saw the camera pan down through the ballroom and catch a glimpse of the glass ball at the bottom of the chandelier?  Who was not sitting with an open mouth as we took in the full scope of the scene and it’s meaning?  As I left the cinema that day I think I knew, even at that young age of four or five years that cinema would be one of my great loves in life.

This remains true today.  My love for cinema has only grown over the years.  While at university I studied Film Studies and found myself appreciating the craft more and more.  To be honest I actually preferred the theory of film more so than the actual process  of making a film.  As I look back I see that even now I am still just that child sitting in the darkness watching their thoughts and feelings being projected onto a great screen for all to see.  To this day when I am feeling emotions or feeling unable to put words to feelings my first stop is to put on a film which reminds me that such feelings and experiences are natural and that I am not alone in my joys or sorrows.  This seems to be happening more and more often as I approach my thirtieth birthday.

Up to this point I have been thinking forward to my thirtieth with a relatively balanced mix of boredom and mild disinterest.  It’s just another birthday.  What is so different about it if anything?  Yet as the date approaches I realise that my level of disinterest and boredom is fading and giving way to a heavier dose of panic!  My go to film when this happens is the classic romance When Harry Met Sally.

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There is a really wonderful scene in this film in which Sally (Meg Ryan) experiences a similar moment of panic when she hears that an ex-boyfriend is going to be married.  She has a dawning realisation that when they were together it wasn’t that her boyfriend didn’t want to get married but rather he didn’t want to marry her.  If you’re like me then this moment of the film will reduce you to tears.  What an awful feeling that must be.  She goes on to tell Harry about she is going to be forty soon and what has she got to look forward to?  It’s a remarkably powerful scene.  As she goes through a checklist of her (apparent) faults Harry takes each one and doesn’t so much refute them but rather shows how much he cares for her with these characteristics.  He sees the good in one who cannot see the good in themselves.  How beautiful.  The more I watch of this film the more I find myself telling myself that this is what I want in my life.  Nothing more than to love and to be loved.

I was having a conversation with a friend today and we were discussing family life.  Something which has struck me quite strongly of late is the following: if a couple are talking of their hopes to have a child then this is all fine and well.  If a single woman wishes to have a child or adopt a child then she is celebrated for being a strong figure of womanhood – and rightly so!  However what would be the response if a man said that he wanted a baby; if he wanted to adopt a child alone?  Would this be celebrated?  I don’t know…but it has certainly left me with much food for thought.  I hope to be a father someday…no, that doesn’t express it properly.  All I want is to have a family of my own eventually – to love them and accept their love for me…that is all.  To love and be loved.  I don’t think that is too much to ask.

What this means is that this desire and drive will impact significantly on any relationship I enter into.  That is a bullet which cannot be dodged and any relationship I enter into will involve throwing these cards out for the other to see.  It doesn’t mean I plan on marrying every girl I go on a date with but rather it simply means that I must treat every one I encounter – family, friend, stranger, etc – with a total self giving love should I wish to be prepared for what I pray will occur someday.  Unfortunately this raises it’s head more than ever as I approach my thirtieth birthday.  For crying out loud even the Beast managed to achieve this by his 21st birthday!

I have no idea what the future holds for me.  I know what I hope and pray it has in store but I cannot say with any degree of certainty.  None of us know what tomorrow will bring.  However what I do know is that every day before I lay my head down to sleep I offer up my prayers for the day.  They vary from day to day however one which will be included every day is this simple prayer:

“Dear Lord; please give me the grace tomorrow to be a better man than I was today.”

As I approach my thirtieth birthday I hold onto a few worries and mild regrets.  However they pale in comparison to the potential of what could be.  Who knows, this time next year I could be married, engaged, preparing to be a father…or maybe even just still single.  There is also the possibility that I will not be here at all.  Regardless, wherever I end up let it always be known that as I approach my thirtieth year (which is significant let’s not lie!) that I will never give up hoping, I will never give up praying and I will never give up loving.  Let my life be one where I love till I have nothing more to give.

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The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes – Making a 50/50 Choice

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When you look in the mirror what do you see?  Is the face that looks back at you one that you recognise?  I don’t know about you but when I look in the mirror a great deal of things look back at me.  Dotted around the frame of my mirror are a number of cards, photographs and trinkets.  There are holy cards, a postcard sent from my nephews on one of their family holidays, business cards and one very special bookmark.  On this bookmark are the photographs of my maternal grandparents.  My four grandparents were truly wonderful people and each of them, in their own wee way, taught me important lessons for life.  More importantly than that they extended their love to me and each of their grandchildren in miraculous ways that only grandparents can.  One of the greatest gifts they gave to me was an invitation to be a part of a remarkable journey to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes whose feast day we celebrate today, February 11th.

Now normally, I don’t write because I hope lots of people will read what I have written.  I write because I write and I love to write because I love to write.  However, today I hope a great many people will read the words which follow and will take them to heart.

Tonight after I got home from work I began to watch a movie which I had always planned to watch but had never got around to.  The movie is 50/50 and is the story of a young man (not much younger than I) who finds out that he has an advanced form of cancer which has taken hold of his spine.  The story tells of how he deals with his treatments and the question of whether he will live or die is constantly hanging in the air throughout the film like some sort of sickening sword of Damacles.  For anyone who has not seen the film I shall not spoil the ending but rather implore that you watch this film which celebrates the raw beauty of life.  The real miracle of this story is found in the people who surround the man Adam.  We are given the lives of his best friend who in his own way has Adam’s best interests at heart, the life of his mother and father who are coping with struggles of their own, the young doctor who must walk alongside Adam and his girlfriend.  Each of the characters in the film exemplify the lives of many people in the world today who are living with the many struggles cancer and other illnesses present.  As I watched the film I began asking myself, where do I see myself in this film?  Who do I identify with the most?  The answer startled me.  The answer was Adam.

5050I am fortunate in that I am not living with any illness, thank God.  In fact I am remarkably healthy and am incredibly blessed in that I have never had to make an extended stay in hospital.  I don’t even think I’ve ever broken a bone.  However the reason why I identified with Adam was because it is not until near the end of the film that Adam recognises the importance of the people who surround him and how the illness he is living with is also impacting on their lives.  Every one of the characters in this film are just trying their best to endure this awful sickness.  Suddenly Adam shakes free of the boundaries and constraints he has placed on himself previously.  Things don’t necessarily have to be a certain way…we are each of us free to make the best – or worst – of whatever situations we find ourselves in throughout our life.  It’s a 50/50 choice essentially.  In my own life I have made such choices.

One of these was my response to the invitation made to travel to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.  This response was made thirteen years ago.  Lourdes is a remarkable place.  Every year when I make the pilgrimage it never fails to amaze me the many people who make the pilgrimage who are living with an affliction of the body or the mind.  Every one who makes this pilgrimage does so with their own intentions and aspirations.  While there have been – and continue to be – many documented stories of miracles taking place in this wonderfully holy place the real message of Lourdes is not (to my mind) merely the ending of physical sickness.  Rather the message of Lourdes is penance and the reflecting of the glory of God.  While in Lourdes the sick and infirm will be afforded the highest honour and the inherent dignity of every person will be recognised.

I continue to make this journey every year as a member of the Brancardiers within the diocese of Down and Connor (to find out more detail about what this entails  please read my blog post attached here: https://dominicoreilly25.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/to-mercy-through-pain/ )and every year I cannot help but feel I have received more than I have given to those I have met on the pilgrimage.  It is very strange.  Perhaps this is why I identify with Adam in the above film…because I do not see the impact my life has on the lives of others.  Here’s the important thing though: just because I am not ill does not mean I do need the message of Lourdes any less than any one else.  Lourdes is for all.  I suffer in my own ways on a daily basis.  One of the ways I suffer is through a general unknowing of where I belong in the world.  Yet every year when I return to Lourdes and sit at the Grotto of Massabielle I feel that still small voice in my heart remind me: whatever else happens, you are welcome here.  You are needed here.  Maybe that should be enough for me.

wp-image-872458178jpg.jpgTruly Lourdes is a place in which miracles are born.  I say born because what I find so miraculous is that when we on this diocesan team return home the importance of that week in Lourdes journeys with us and our work as Brancardiers, Handmaidens, Doctors, Nurses, Choir, Clergy, Youth Team and more continues as we walk alongside all those we meet on a daily basis.  Each of us has our own job to do and our own role to fulfil and sometimes it doesn’t plan out the way we had hoped or the way we necessarily want…but we still have that 50/50 choice.  We can at least make the best – or the worst – of our given experience.  You can too.  You can be the reason why someone smiles today.  Please be that reason.  You may not ever know just how important you were to that person at that particular time but they do.  Be the miracle.

Each of us may get the 50/50 choice in life but we only get one chance at life.  It is here and it is now.  You – whoever you are and wherever you are – have the chance to make it a good one.  It is actually remarkably easy but you are yourself a wonderful creation.  Just be yourself.

More Love!