Let your light shine
“Circumstances do not make the person, they reveal the person. We’re not responsible for the cards we are dealt but we are responsible for how we play them. It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.” (Cathy McCarthy)
The journey of life takes many twists and turns. We never quite know what’s around the corner. One minute you’re free-wheeling downhill without a care in the world. The next, you have to muster whatever strength you’ve left simply to deal with something you never saw coming. The cards we’re dealt can fall either way. How we respond reveals who we are. Through the tempest, we find ourselves.
Often, it is the unlikely one who shows us the way. If we’re lucky, we’ve all met one such person; someone who has experienced the ebbs and flows of life and is never found wanting when the going gets tough, someone content to fly below the radar rather than follow the dictates of the crowd no matter what way the dice rolls, someone whose love and courage ripples out from within and changes lives, almost unknowingly. The unheralded ones leave their mark in ways we only fully appreciate when they’re gone!
One such person passed from this world this week at the tender age of 37. Amy packed so much into her short life. I was once her teacher yet she taught me more than I could ever teach. She was the wise one. She knew what mattered and stayed true to her course ‘til the very end. Amy Hearne was unique yet we all know an Amy. How she finished her days says everything about her. Long may her light shine!
I’ll start at the end. No better place in this case. Amy had everything about her funeral planned to a tee; the music, the eulogy, the party afterwards. Behind that casual veneer was a determined and focused young woman who knew what she wanted. As I stood up to say my few words, I could sense her orchestrating everything from above. Laughter, tears, sadness all spilled out into the crimson skies at the end of a memorable day.
Amy was diagnosed with cancer over 3 years ago. 3 surgeries later and many episodes of unspoken pain, she knew deep down the odds were stacked against her… yet her spirit never waned. She never gave up. The nurses in Medical 4 at University Hospital Waterford struggled to keep her there. Even when she had to stay overnight, she’d be up ordering pizzas for them ‘til all hours. It was Amy’s way of saying thanks. In her darkest hour, Amy drew on reserves of kindness that knew no bounds.
“We are not supposed to stay wounded. We are supposed to move through our tragedies and challenges and to help each other move through the many painful episodes of our lives. Wounds are the means to receive through which we enter the hearts of other people. They are meant to teach us to become compassionate and wise.” (Caroline Myss)
You see Amy in school was never the most academic. She was a prisoner within a system that reined in her true potential. Amy was always a free spirit. Still is! With ingenious ease, Amy would hatch escape routes from the monotony of the classroom below the radar of her unsuspecting teachers. Once she stepped onto a soccer pitch, everything changed. Amy started to express herself with pure abandon. She came alive.
She never let anyone down on the field. She’d leave it all out there tackling anyone that came near her with a ball, even her own team mates on occasion, anything to keep the dream alive. I witnessed many opposing forwards run for cover at the sight of her. I would have! No surprise then, the St. Angela’s reached an All Ireland Senior Schools A Final within 3 years. Amy led the way!
Amy was beginning to realise that when you find something you love doing and invest all your energies into it, anything is possible. She went on to become a founding member of Johnville Ladies Soccer Team in her beloved John’s Park on the edge of the city. She and her friend Trish drove around Waterford Estates recruiting any female who could walk until they could field a team. It took them 20 games before they scored a goal. Within 3 years, they were Senior League and Cup Champions. Raw hunger can go a long way!
After running her own Sports Store in The Hyper, Waterford and developing her horticulture prowess in a nursery in Faithlegg, Amy ended up moving to Darwin, Australia. She found work with the McCarthur River Mine, MRM, and within months became Environmental Officer for their entire enterprise. Her work involved teaching native Aborigines how to re-claim the land after mining. She showed them how to plant and re-plant to the point that they could re-generate once barren landscapes. She had found her higher purpose.
This is what an MRM work colleague and friend, Gary, had to say about Amy this week: “You lifted the performance level within the team due to your enthusiasm and need to do things well. You were never shy of putting in the hard yards and getting it done. Even after several years, I found it hard to understand your accent although after a while your expressions were enough for me to know what was going on. You started the nursery on site with your background in horticulture and it’s a pity you cannot see how far it has come now. You will be missed Amy.”
Amy loved her dogs and fostered one in Australia, Rhonda, and another in Waterford, Mel. Malnourished, scared, abandoned when discovered, they found a loving home with her. Mel has been pining for her since. Amy even got her own greyhound, ‘Raytown Amy’, who continues to light up Kilcohan Park on Saturday nights. Unbeaten there to this day! Amy lived by a simple mantra… be kind, be sound, keep an eye out for others and you’ll be the better for it yourself. This is her legacy to all of us left behind!
“No need for temples or complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples. My philosophy my kindness” (Dalai Lama)
Amy and I walked the Greenway a few months back. Just for that fleeting moment, we knew we were part of something greater than ourselves. There we were; Amy, her sister Gemma and close friend Trish… chatting, laughing, wallowing in the warmth of the morning sunshine. It was as though time stood still. Yet the River Suir rolled nonchalantly onwards into the awaiting arms of the city beyond. Each melodic movement that was playing out before us blended beautifully into a wider symphony. Though little was said, we all sensed it.
Times of trial bring us beyond our normal threshold. Amy asked so many questions that day. She was staring the incomprehensible in the face. She knew that in life we can be cruising along and in an instant, everything can change… forever. She knew just how quickly the tide can turn, just how savage once benign waters can become when the storm sets in and she was trying to make sense of it all.
Amy was coming near the end of her journey. We couldn’t say it but she could. Her search for meaning led her to a place she never knew existed, somewhere deep within. In the silence of the night, whilst the rest of us slept, Amy unravelled the layers and arrived at a vital truth… that love, that basic human kindness, can conquer everything, even her deepest fears. She lived by this formula to the very end. What was always there was unleashed to the world in all its brilliance during her final months.
Rebecca captures that ‘spark’ in Amy that we’ve all experienced: “Irish, you were one of a kind and an amazing friend, by far the most generous of souls in every possible way. The last 3 years you fought and you did it with grace, determination, humour… you encountered everyone along the way with love. The world has lost a charismatic energy of light and I will miss you no end”.
Above all, Amy made us laugh. She never took herself or life too seriously and made sure the rest of us didn’t either. I never laughed as much as I did when I was in her company. What she had was infectious. Teaching Amy was one of the greatest challenges of my life and I came out of class each day… laughing. She’d smirk up roguishly, probably secretly plotting her next escape, yet I knew even then I was the privileged one to be in her company.
Amy has bowed out from this world. Light has faded in the aftermath but we still sense its glow. On the pitch of life, when it really mattered, this woman fought with tenacious courage and won. I can hear her whisper to me, and to all of us, as the waves caress the shoreline. In the stillness, her faint murmurings can still be heard…
“For what it’s worth, it is never too late to be whatever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again” (Eric Roth ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Special thanks to Mary, Noller, Gemma, Cliff, Patti and Paula and Amy’s many relatives and her amazing friends in Ireland and Australia for looking after Amy so well over the past few years. To Trish, Lucy and all the soccer team at St. Angela’s and to Laura and her teammates at Johnville Ladies F.C., give the soccer one more year… just for Amy!
Dr. Phil Brennan and his wife Elaine blend walks/cycles, motivational talks and music into their Camino experience around Waterford.
For further information on Waterford Camino, follow us on our Waterford Camino Tours facebook page or contact Phil and Elaine on firstname.lastname@example.org Their new website will be launched in early September at www.waterfordcamino.com