Monday, January 15, 2007

Every woman

I’M GLAD to say that even after almost nine years as a journalist there are still stories which have the power to humble me, inspire me and teach me a thing or two about life. This week has been exceptional in that three such stories have landed on my desk.
Each of them feature inspirational women and each of them has helped, in some way, to help me put my life that wee bit more into perspective and encourage make to some changes- big and small- in how I think about life.
And what makes their stories all the more remarkable is that I know that those three women are only a tiny representation of the women in Derry, and throughout the country, who get on with making quiet, unassuming changes to people’s lives but who don’t seek recognition or reward for their efforts.
They made me realise there is a strength and courage in womanhood that we don’t always take the time or effort to recognise because we are so busy chasing our tails trying to keep ahead of the game So it is worth taking some time out, every now and again to sit back and think about our lives, our achievements, our goals and our dreams.
The first story which found its way to my desk was that of 30-years-old Nicky Ward from Cornshell Fields who was killed when she was struck by a car at Ballykelly last week. Nicky was my age. That one thought stuck in my head as I visited her home, and spoke to the people who so clearly loved and adored her.
For all intents and purposes she could have been me. We were born in the same year, would no doubt have shared the same memories of childhood TV, infatuations with music and TV stars. I wondered had she been as nervous about turning 30 as I was.
Nicky, it is fair to say, has put me to shame. She spent a life caring for others, be it the people in the care home she worked in, or the animals she reared from kittens and puppies and rescued from animal shelters. In the end it was her act of ultimate selflessness- her decision to sign the organ donor register- which made her truly remarkable. Even though she tragically isn’t with us anymore, people- perhaps as many as five- will have had a second chance at a healthy life. It made me ashamed because while I’ve ticked the wee box on the back of my drivers’ licence I’ve not taken the time to register.
Or at least, I hadn’t until I left Nicky’s home and came back to the office just in time to hear of the sad passing of Michaela McKinney. Michaela died on Sunday, after tirelessly campaigning to have people sign the NHS donor register. She herself needed a heart and lung transplant, but was too unwell to survive the operation.
In the end, she never got the chance but her dignity- her bravery at speaking out about the reality of her condition will hopefully mean more people will do just what Nicky did- without any prompting- and ensure that should the worst happen to them they will at least help someone else.
I left work on Monday deeply moved and touched by both these stories- so much so that I made the effort (and trust me it was no effort at all) to register for the donor list online. In addition when I walked through the door of my house that night, I held my son that little bit tighter and even told himself (the grown up one) that I loved him. (Even though he was clearly doing my head in by leaving his washing all over the floor). I realised in that instance how lucky I was and yet how much I take things for granted.
But just as I was about to start beating myself up for my inadequacies, I met with Helen McDonnell on Wednesday- a lifecoach setting up sessions for women right here in Derry. Helen and I sat and had a wee natter about her new venture, and a bit of gossip about life in general and one of the key messages I took away from meeting her was that the past is gone and it’s the here and now that really matters.
Yes, our pasts shape us but we shouldn’t let them hold us back. To put it in the simplest terms I can think of, there is no use crying over spilled milk. I may not have signed the donor register before I wrote about Nicky or Michaela- but I have done now and I’m determined as much as possible to be that little bit more positive throughout the day.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not planning to become some maniacal Pollyanna because let’s face it, the only thing more annoying that a misery guts is someone who grins like a buck eejit from morning to night with no good reason. I’m going to find my happy medium and try to remind myself as often as possible just what I have to be thankful for and just how much of a difference I can make just by quietly doing what I’m doing.

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