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John Irwin death: There is no glue to mend broken heart of parent who has lost child

By Suzanne Breen

Published 20/04/2016

John on his 16th birthday a few days ago
John on his 16th birthday a few days ago
John Irwin with his family (back row, from left) James, father Keith and William; and (front row, from left) Rachel, mother Diane and Ruth
John Irwin, who died just four days after his 16th birthday
John Irwin

The words of Diane Irwin are almost too heartbreaking to read. I don't know how she has found the strength to speak so beautifully and eloquently about losing her son just a week ago.

It started out as an ordinary day that became extraordinary for all the wrong reasons. We can all imagine it. Waving our child off to school, blissfully unaware that it will be the last time we will ever do that.

Every morning mothers all over the country go through the same routine. We straighten up the uniforms our children have thrown on half-awake, pack their lunches, and make sure they've all the books and belongings they need for the day ahead.

We never dream that disaster could lie in front of them. If we get a call from the school we expect it to be because they've a sore tummy or have thrown up. Maybe, at worst, we anticipate a broken arm or leg. We never dream of being told that our beloved boy or girl has collapsed and stopped breathing.

The tableau that Diane described of the family gathered around John's deathbed, holding his hands as he slipped away from them, is excruciating.

There is no moving on or getting over this. No fix or solution can be found for any bereaved parent's grief. There is no glue for their broken hearts. For as long as they breathe they will ache for their lost child.

Diane and her husband Keith will want to say and hear John's name, and speak as naturally and normally about him as the parents of any living child. Keith will treasure those memories of his son tending sheep with him on the family farm just days before he died.

Diane will look at the pictures of her beautiful boy on his 16th birthday, and wish time and time again that those twinkling eyes and big smile weren't just contained in photographs, but were standing in front of her in flesh and blood.

The scale and depth of the Irwins loss is incomprehensible to all but those who have themselves lost a child. I don't know how bereaved parents get up every morning, get dressed, go to work, do the shopping, cook and all the rest. That they do redefines the word courage for me because I know, were I in their shoes, I couldn't even go through a semblance of living.

There will never be a time that Diane and Keith don't think about who John would be, what he would look like, and what he would be doing had his life not been cut so short. Their loss isn't a finite event, it will unfold every hour of every day that they are on this Earth.

The missed birthdays, Christmases and family holidays; the exams never sat; the graduation never attended; the engagement, the wedding, and the grandchildren that will never be. These parents' pain will last as long as their love. Forever.

Belfast Telegraph

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