Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Aeschylus who lived from 525 to 456 wrote these few lines about bereavement: “Drop, drop– in our sleep, upon the heart sorrow falls, memory’s pain, and to us, though against our very will, even in our own despair, comes wisdom, by the awful grace of God.”
Those words were spoken to the world again by Robert Kennedy after announcing the murder of Martin Luther King in 1968, and uttered to remind the American people of its sudden bereavement that his brother, John F Kennedy, was also murdered by a white man. These words echo through every age on a pain that visits us all sooner or later.
Losing a member of any loving family is the exact moment when that pain comes to those left behind. It was Aeschylus that came to mind when a man deep in sorrow told me about the loss of his brother recently. More than anything else closure was missing, and that means many things to different people. I wanted to help and not by offering clichés that border on ignorance of the depth of his despair. I offered instead what I though were helpful insights into the randomness of life. I needed to know more for little enough can be known in what was ultimately a brief conversation in trying to purchase a second hand car.
A beautiful young girl, Sharon Creaven, was 12 years old when she was killed in May of 1998. It was also the exact moment too when the killing of Raymond Forde began. He was barely 5 years older than Sharon, and that reckless ride that morning coming from church when his car tried to overtake 3 more and could not, and when Sharon died as a result, was the day no one could forget, least of all him who could not forgive himself either.
He was charged with dangerous driving causing the death of Sharon, found guilty and sentenced to 5 years in an adult prison at the age of 18 years old. He served 3 years. He said to the judge at sentencing that he would gladly have given his own life in place of Sharon’s. He meant it and would not stop trying to give up his life such was the depth and meaning of his remorse and sorrow. He never intended to hurt anybody yet another teenager did. He would be in prison at the same time and would serve little more than a year for the rape of a 20 year old girl.
How was prison going to reform Raymond, a adolescent not yet old enough to vote in Ireland, who was neither a child but not yet a man, and beset by testosterone and the mindset of most male teenagers that they are right and the rest of us are wrong. Reform him from what? Was his sentence nothing more than a prejudiced opinion on behalf of a judge and a system that was meant to punish and exact revenge but not forgive which was the only path to redemption. Another predator circled his family at this time too.
When Raymond was less than a year in prison and his family were in the emotional hold of that same sentence, a man claiming to be from the Department Of Justice visited them. Brian Hassett, then 52 years old, presented himself as a probation and welfare officer who was there to offer early release for their son. Of course it would cost 3000 Irish pound. They did what any loving parent would have done and handed over the money. Hassett, who had already committed burglary, car theft, fraud, criminal damage, and larceny had read about their son in the local newspaper and hatched his plan well. It was another nail in Raymond’s coffin.
When Raymond was released from prison his deep feelings of remorse, regrets, and self worth could not be reached. Life offered now and then hope, but he could not shut out the memories of when Sharon died and all that followed.
So it was when he went for his last ride in March of 2013. He was alone at 2:45 in early morning when his car crashed and he was killed instantly. He was 31 years old.
Closure has yet to come for Sharon and Raymond families. Yet, life offers that very promise for those left behind for they were free spirits when they went over to the other side. They are there now for their families when in doubt, in crisis; there on still days when a gentle breeze reminds them they are not alone; there at night to help watch over them. The place where they are can never be troubled again while knowing that their families carry on the banner of their spirits that still lives in part in every one of them.
That is the reality of what I believe closure is or needs to be, and hope it is what Sharon’s and Raymond’s family can embrace. It is also why I believe that the reason that I met Raymond’s brother Pat that day to purchase a car, is that I was sent to meet him by Raymond. It was too easy, too coincidental. Patrick had just advertised a car on the Internet for less than 2 minutes, and I was there in front of him 20 minutes later. The stars were aligned just right. Raymond and Patrick had something on their minds and I was just the messenger to let them both know what that was. I hope this message is heard and understood by all.