Friday, June 10, 2011

Invisible Aspects

There are probably not a lot of worse things in life than waking up to bad news. Today was one of those days. They are strange sort of days in many ways and certainly not describable in a blog written mostly off the bat.
The death of ex-Finance Minister Brian Lenihan was sad at the age of just 52. He hadn't looked well for a while and he wasn't in attendance in the Dáil in the past few weeks. It's just 18 short months since TV3 broke the news that he was battling pancreatic cancer. Those words still send shivers down my spine.

I lost a good friend to the same thing when I was 21. There's little doubt about it, it threw me sideways for a while. I'd lived with him in The Netherlands in 1991 when I worked over there for a year at the tail end of the last big recession. He offered me a room in his house he shared with his wife and two cats. It was one of the best years of my life. With things on the up in Ireland i returned after a year.
Just a few short months later I received a call from him to say he'd Cancer in his stomach. They did everything they could. He did everything he could...and a whole lot more. He faced it all with the mentality that he could beat it. Four weeks before he passed they told him there was no more they could do. In a way it broke his spirit, but he never uttered a bitter word and lived life even more from the day he was told he had it, almost up to the end.
I visited him weeks before he died. He had accepted it. We took a trip to an amusement park where he ushered me on to a roller coaster. Number 1, I'm afraid of heights and number 2, I'm a coward.
'What if it comes off?' I remember asking.
'Like I care,' he replied. Scariest 90 seconds of my life. He went for seconds. I went to get sick.
He was 33 when he died.

There's been a bit of venom flying around the place today on the Internet concerning the passing of Brian Lenihan. Personally I found that disturbing and vile.
His political legacy will be for another generation to write about. I genuinely felt sorry for the guy when I heard the news of his illness 18 months back. I had a little knowledge on the road that lay ahead for him.
I'm astonished how in the face of such personal adversity he managed to carry on doing his job and at the most crucial time in recent Irish history. I don't have to say I disagreed with him every step of the way.
But like my friend, the way he carried himself as he battled is something that any decent person can surely admire. It's courage not many of us may ever know thankfully. But it definitely courage to aspire too.
Cancer is one of societies big ills. 1 in 3 will get it at some time in life. There are hundreds if not thousands of stories out there which I'm sure can speak about the courage displayed when faced with battling all its nastiness throws at not just the sufferer, but in many cases those around them too. Hopefully science will provide the answers some day.
There's so many branches that spring off the tree of any given life. Little side roads that lead to crossroads and often down cul-de-sac's. Politics was one such branch for Brian Lenihan, but I'm sure his family will say there were many more too.
His passing today put a lot of things once again in perspective, the trigger for sadness being the memory of my friend. I started writing my first book in his home way back then. I know he'll be glad to know I got there in the end.
Life should never be summed up by one aspect of it. I'm sure Brian Lenihan's won't, and I know by the way people talk about my friend still, he did Ok too.


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