Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Grieving widower's selflessness inspiring

Editor's Viewpoint

The past 18 months have been hell for Seamus Armstrong and his three children since his wife Valerie was knocked down and killed by a scrambler rider in a west Belfast forest park.

For him there is the loss of his partner of 19 years, 11 of them as a married couple. Valerie was just 35 when she died taking the dog for a walk. Her relative youth makes her death all the more pointless and poignant.

And for Seamus and the children there is the realisation that Valerie will not be there for all the milestones in their lives as they grow toward adulthood - an approaching First Communion for one of the girls is the first.

It is when the children speak of their loss that Seamus feels the worst wrench and thinks of the injustice of it all.

The teenager who killed her served just nine months in jail with another nine months on licence. He is already out of prison and could soon be back living near the family.

For Seamus the punishment did not fit the crime - even if it was an accident and the perpetrator was legally a juvenile. There are many people who would share his view on this, even if judges have to abide by sentencing guidelines and take mitigating factors into account. Seamus believes the sentence sends out the wrong message to other would-be offenders, and certainly it seems little of a deterrent, although every case must be judged on its individual merits.

His sense of loss and sense of injustice makes what he is now doing all the more remarkable. For Seamus is telling other young people taking a course on how to drive safety on motorbikes the story of his family's tragedy.

He knows that will be very difficult for him, resurrecting all the feelings of that fateful day when his wife left home for a simple walk in the park and never returned. But he is doing it because he wants to spare other families that anguish, that loss.

And somehow it seems to sum up the ethos of that family.

Valerie's organs were donated after her death and two women now have a greater quality of life thanks to that selfless gesture taken at a moment of great sorrow.

But Seamus cannot get a new organ to replace his own broken heart. Every day he is reminded of the tragedy as he takes the family dog on the same walk, pausing only to say a prayer where the accident happened. Perhaps he will find some healing in his attempts to prevent similar accidents.

Belfast Telegraph

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