Sunday, December 04, 2005

Christmas Party

It is now 12:30 A.M. and I have just returned from our annual Vincent de Paul Christmas party which we run at our school. I suppose Christmas brings the best out in everyone. Today was such a day. These lines are by way of gratitude to all those who care so much about others. First let me start by mentioning the pupils involved in serving up the dinner to our old folks: David McGuinness, Luke Clarke, Shane Farnham, Keith Shannon and Stephen Cheevers from Fourth Year, William Sherlock from Sixth Year and the one and only Paul MacCormack from last year's Sixth Form. Thanks lads, you all "played a stormer" as the cliché goes from this part of the world! Thanks, Paul, for your wonderful organisation skills and for your complete generosity. I must not forget to pay special tribute to Mairéad Martin, my fellow teacher and comrade-in-arms for the past twelve years who is really the "driving force " behind our efforts. Thanks for the inspiration and the determination to get things done - you're a wonderful human being! Thanks also to other teachers who helped, especially Aoife MacCormick - one of the loveliest and most genuine people to join our staff in recent years. Thanks for your support and for being with us the whole day long. I'm not, of course, forgetting others like Barbara Farrell who is always her usual happy and helpful self - thanks, Barbara, for being there. Nor must I forget to tender my thanks to Brian O'Dwyer and Christy Oonan, principal and deputy principal respectively for your support both on the night and in days leading up to the event. Thanks also to the parents who came in to bring the old folks home - Mrs. Carville and some others whom I don't personally know. Thanks also to my brother, Pat who always comes down each year to help us ferry our guests home, and also to Mairéad Fitzsimons, our Careers Guidance Counsellor, who came in all the way from Portmarnock to help with the same task! Then there was the inimitable Peter Tiernan who provided the excellent entertainment for the night. The songs were brilliant, covering all those marvellous hits from the sixties onward. There were some wet eyes in the house given the time of year. I suppose one would want to be a stone not to be moved by the depth of feeling some of the old folks put into their songs. Ageing is a strange but natural thing. As I looked at the faces of these dear old people it struck me that they, too, were once young. It also struck me that I, too, was ageing. It is a special gift I think to grow old gracefully, to grow into an acceptance of whatever life wishes to do to you with your co-operation and support. It is a special gift indeed to embrace the Self, to accept the Self, to grow comfortable as it were in your own body; to accept the inevitability of life's vicissitudes, all those ups and downs; and then finally to look death in the eye and say: "We are not afraid to embrace you because you, death, are a part of life and not an end of life as such! Life holds us by one hand and you, death, hold us by the other. We walk with both by our side. Let acceptance bring us its consolations in our journey!" I enclose a recent picture I took of the sunset over Donabate strand which for me sums up, or at least gives a glimpse into the mystery of our existence!