Faith will help family cope with their grief
For any parent to lose a child is their worst nightmare. Yet the grief is compounded when there is no discernible cause of the death. That is the reality facing the parents of John Irwin, the Co Armagh teenager who collapsed and died last week.
Anyone reading our interview with his mum Diane will be moved by her faith which has allowed her to accept this terrible cross and will empathise with her bafflement as to why death came to her child.
He was a young boy with scarcely a day's sickness in his life and yet he was struck down as he walked the corridors of his school, dying some 14 hours later in hospital in spite of the most desperate attempts by medical staff to save his life. Every parent will also sympathise with Diane's sudden realisation that her son is gone forever. The days after his death probably passed in a blur, eased somewhat by the visits of friends, relatives and those who simply wanted to offer their condolences.
But then, after the funeral and after everyone had left, Diane was hit by the awful truth. John would never come home. There will forever be a void in that household. A much loved son who always wanted to give his parents a hand, be it on the farm or in the kitchen, a boy who never caused them a moment's trouble, has been cruelly taken away.
Diane, who is obviously a very hands-on mum, had planned in the months ahead to help the boy with his GCSE studies. Now she knows she won't be able to do that.
How futile can our plans seem. How presumptuous to think that the future will pan out the way we expect. In a trice life can be changed for ever and our hopes and aspirations turned to dust.
We all think at one time or another that we have troubles to endure. Some of us, indeed, may have heavy burdens, but when we think of Diane Irwin, her husband, Keith and their children and what they are going through at this moment, then we realise what trouble really means.
The family is being sustained by their faith and that is helping them to cope. To say that they have come to terms with John's death would be wrong. All that they can do is hope that every passing day eases their pain a little.
What must be a comfort to them is that all the family members were present around John's hospital bed when he passed away. He died as he had lived, surrounded by the love of his parents and siblings and that is a memory they will hold dear in the years ahead.