Events have happened recently that give a person pause to wonder what life is really all about. The sadness and wickedness that has happened to 796 young babies and children in ‘The Home’ in Tuam, and probably thousands more in other so-called ‘Homes’ around Ireland are unbearable to think about, but we must think about them and strive to bring justice for them and all children in need so that we can make sure nothing like this never happens again. For years, places like Tuam Mother and Baby ‘Home’ were spoken of in hushed tones. For generations of Irish people, they were places where thousands of women and girls were sent when they had “a problem”. They went in pregnant and came out alone, some after spending years locked away. Some left only to be moved to other institutions and Magdalene laundries. Most, if not all, were never the same again. Their voices were never heard.
Last year, thanks to the tireless work of Catherine Corless, our country and our world was made aware of the 796 babies that lay forgotten in Tuam and thanks to her – and to be honest her alone – their lost voices and cries are now beginning to be heard. The truth about their lives and the lives of many more children buried in unmarked graves or pits and the whole truth now more than ever needs to be told, so that no one can ever forget the pain and suffering they went through and indeed the sufferings of their mothers and many other women left to fend for themselves in these places in the midst of our so-called great societies.
Many in tears
I was in tears, as I am sure many were, a few times last week after watching Claire Byrne’s Live programme on RTE, especially when they showed the names of all the 796 babies that died in Tuam and probably many more in unmarked graves around our country, and also listening to the stories on Keith Finnegan’s Galway Bay FM radio show and countless other forms of media. It was heartbreaking. May all of those little beautiful children and angels who were so inhumanely and cruelly denied a life on this earth rest in peace in heaven forever. It made me think of children who have died all around our world so needlessly, so inhumanely and cruelly because of neglect or lack of love and care or because of those in power and authority who ruled with iron fists rather than with gentle and caring hearts especially for the most needy and vulnerable. The church, because of its dominant position in the Ireland of the time, must take a large degree of responsibility for what happened to all of these children along with the responsibility of those who had been and who have been in the power of our State. It’s such a sad and evil world we live in at times and not just in the past, there is a lot of sadness in our lives this present day when you truly look with open eyes, open minds and open hearts at the situation of our homelessness, direct provision, war, famine, racism, traveller accommodation, the way we treat our elderly, poverty, hunger, thirst, abuse, austerity, eviction, inequality, lack of love, lacklustre healthcare systems, untruths, greed, and so much more by people in power who are not protecting or looking after with genuine love, care and action those most vulnerable and needy in our world.
The sadness that has happened to these children both in our past and indeed in our present is unbearable for me and I am sure for everybody. What must it be like for the parents whose children are being affected in any way by all of the above. My thoughts and prayers are with them and their family members in their suffering and loss. I also remember the years I have spent travelling in the developing world and the tragedy, sadness and suffering I saw in some parts of our world that was so shockingly sad and that continues to bring nightmares to my sleep. The people, especially the children, in these countries that are in such need like Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Sudan, Yemen, Burkina Faso and our own country of Ireland need plenty of our help, support, love and action. Let’s not forget the nine million little children that die globally each year in often horrendous circumstances, just because it’s not on the news doesn’t mean it’s not a reality. Everywhere I have travelled over the last 25 years with my work in the developing world especially in famine-torn areas I saw children with a look of despair. I was reminded of the words of the American writer James Agee, who said that: “In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, the potentiality of the human race is born again, and in them too, once more and in each of us, is born again our terrific responsibility towards human life.”
After reading the various reports about what happened in Tuam and indeed in other parts of our country where so many children have died in Irish Church and Irish State care and in what has happened to so many children presently in our world today, I have started to hug my two little girls more tightly and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to have them in our lives. I am reminded of a poem,‘To My Child’, that I read on the wall of a children’s orphanage I visited a few years back, which was written by Sally Meyers about her son Dhylan, who is Autistic. It will mean so much to parents after seeing what has happened to young babies and children in Tuam and other ‘Homes’ in the past but also what is happening to children in our country and our world at present.
To My Child
‘To My Child, Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I see your face and laugh when I feel like crying. Just for this morning, I will let you choose what you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is. Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park and play. Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together. Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles. Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine for the ice-cream truck, and I will buy you one if he comes by. Just for this afternoon, I won’t worry about what you are going to be when you grow up, or second-guess every decision I have made where you are concerned. Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cakes, and I won’t stand over you trying to fix them. Just for this afternoon, I will take us to McDonald’s and buy us both a kiddie’s meal so we can have both toys. Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you. Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry. Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars. Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours, and miss my favourite TV shows. Just for this evening, when I run my fingers through your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever given. I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting their children’s graves instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly and screaming inside that they can’t handle it any more. And when I kiss you good night, I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer. It is then, that I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing, except one more day.’
Thought for the week
As your thought for the week always remember how important it is to do something special with your loved ones, especially our children because life is short and we must do all we can to protect them and give them real hope for the future for they are our future. Please always, I beg you, remember the children in need in our world, in our country of Ireland and indeed in our towns and villages throughout our beautiful country who all need our help, support, genuine care, prayers and actions for goodness now. I believe there can be a brighter future for our children in Ireland and indeed in our world, but we all must shoulder the burden to do all we can to protect and give genuine care to our children and indeed learn from what has happened in our past and many other situations of where the lives of children have been affected or ended that have surfaced in the last few years. I am constantly thinking and praying for all those hearts breaking this past week because of injustices and not knowing who they are because of what happened to them in the past. As the saying goes, “For evil to exist in this world all it takes is for good people to remain quiet”. We need to have more action, truth , justice and reconciliation when it comes to what has happened and what is happening to our children and let us always remember that the truth will set us free and will set free the souls of 796 babies and children in Tuam and many unknown others buried around Ireland if we are strong enough to let the truth set us all free especially from the iron fists that have ruled our lives in the past so that we can all have real faith, hope and love for the future and especially for our children.