THEY gathered in their thousands at The Papal Cross in Dublin’s Phoenix Park and at other venues around the country. Forty thousand in all turned their back on sleep and massed in the wee hours to lend support for a worthy cause.
The cause in question is Pieta House; an organisation set up to highlight and help prevent the tragedy that is suicide.
The emotion that dominated the event was hope; hope signified in the open expressions, the hugs and the laughter as people, dogged with tiredness, battle through regardless.
They persevered because the issue of suicide is much more important than sleep. At least for this morning.
The event, an annual one, is called the Darkness into Light fundraiser and all monies raised go towards the support of Pieta House, a suicide and self-harm crisis centre.
And there were reminders all around us as frozen folk squinted into the darkness and jumped on the spot to chase away the cold. People carried framed picture of loved ones who had taken their own lives; people cried, some openly as they walked; people sought support in the stories of others.
Sadness + Joy
Just before the off, Joan Freeman – the founder of Pieta House – drew stark parallels between the work of the organisation and the journey we were all about to set off on. She said this was the ‘start of a journey’; she talked of the ‘scourge of suicide’; and, most tellingly, she spoke of hope. A hope captured in the bright yellow T-shirts worn by the thousands who walked the route.
I live near the Phoenix Park. I run in the Park every day. But this was nothing like I had experienced before. The terrain was subtext to the event; the atmosphere was a confusing mix of sadness and joy, almost in equal measure; the anticipation of a dawn breaking held huge significance for the thousands in attendance.
The work of Pieta House, now more than ever, should not be underestimated. We are battling through tough times. Austerity is a wolf that stalks the streets and the homes and the work places of hundreds of thousands of Irish people.
For many of us there seems to be no end in sight, no help and no-one to care. And suicide appears to be the only way out. Sadly, tragically, the figures are increasing, as the cry for help turns into the final, awful action. More needs to be done.
And then, suddenly, the walk was over. The point was made. People hung around for a time, some wondering what they should do next. They had made a big commitment and an even bigger statement. There should be sometime more, surely.
But there wasn’t. The act in itself was the ‘something more’. The decision to go without sleep was the sacrifice. Their presence at this special gathering was the gesture of support.