I was born in 1943. My late Father had been a Merchant seaman in the 1930s, but he left the sea when he married my mother. He spent the rest of his working life with The Dublin Port and Docks Board. I was surrounded by the sea, ships and all my father's sea stories, with the result that I too went to sea in 1959. When I married in 1965, I decided to leave that behind and a job presented itself with Dún Laoghaire Fire Brigade, where I worked for the next 35 years
I entered the Fire Service with a little bit of fear and trepedation. I realised that I would be required to take my turn on Emergency Ambulance duty, and I was unsure if I would be able to handle some of the work that was required of me. My first Ambulance call was to a house where a lady in her 80s had a heart attack and died in her bed. It was a baptism. But I survived it and got on with the work of being a Fireman or Firefighter as we were later known
There were many such call over the years. But two stand out for me. One Saturday night we got a call to attend at an address where a young girl, in her late teens, was up on the roof of her house and threatening to throw herself off. She was in a very high state of distress. It seems her boyfriend had broken off their relationship and all she wanted to do was die. Between her family, the Gardai and ourselves, we managed to calm her down and eventually she came off the roof and was reunited with her family.
The other incident happened at midnight one Friday. We got a call to an address and a garbled message as to what the call was. All we ever needed was a proper address and a request for a Fire Engine or an Ambulance and off we would go. This was quite a regular occurance, not knowing the nature of the call we were going to. On arriving at the address we found some neighbours in a very upset state. They said to us "she is lying on the floor upstairs". So I proceeded to go up the stairs and into the room where the neighbours had directed me.
The first thing I found was two Scottie Terrier dogs lying dead on the floor. I went further into the room, the kitchen, and found an old lady lying with her head lying on a pillow in the gas oven. She was dead for some hours. I then found a note on the table which said "I have no job. I have no family. And nobody loves me." It was extremely sad. We brought her to St. Vincent's Hospital where I had radio request to have a priest in attendance on our arrival. She was anointed and we left her in the A&E Room and returned to our station.
The common denominator that stands out for me in those two stories is the need for human relationships and contact. The young girl broken-hearted at a break up and the elderly lady who had no one to love her. It points out to me the importants of human relationship and how it can positively affect us when we get it reasonably right. The sense of self-worth we receive when relationships are in right order. And sadly how wrong things can go when relationships are out of kilter.
It's a huge challange for us all to make people feel supported and loved. It can require us to make changes to our own way of looking at life and how we can make life better for others. Suicide is devastating. Assisted Suicide seems like an abandonment of those who need help. We need to save lives, not help people to end theirs.