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Let me tell you about “The Gate of Tears…”

Many of you will know how blessed I have been lately to have had the opportunity to get out of the house for a change and to go visiting different places within Ireland – the country I now call home and which I love so dearly.

That is not to say I don’t still love my native and original country England because of course I still do.  As the numerous evenings recently spent viewing the 2012 Olympics and cheering on sportsmen and women from both of my home countries – Great Britain and Ireland will no doubt prove.

But that is the funny thing about ‘home’ isn’t it.  It is, as they (or I think more accurately Gaius Plinius Secundus did) say ‘where the heart is.’  And home  is something which I have been giving a lot of thought to of late.

For me to claim to be ‘a simple man with simple needs’ would perhaps be a little inaccurate if I am being truly honest and truly objective and in some was I am ‘a complicated man but with simple needs’.  I accept that and I accept that two of those needs are ‘home’ and ‘family’.

And yet am I so different in this?  Are these not two things which we all in some way or another yearn for – either in reality of experience or in expectation of what they should be?

They (home and family) are also, it could I think be argued, two things which we can sometimes take for granted.

I am blessed to have a wonderful home here in Ireland and not one but two, even three, wonderful families.  My biological family back in England, my adopted family spread across the world but mainly in the UK, America and Canada and my third family, the family of bloggers for whom I have such passion and love.

But what if life presented me with the need to pull away from and leave behind the home and family that I loved so much?

Let me show you a picture…

Pretty isn’t it?  The other afternoon Tony and I went out for a little drive in search of a fairly local castle.  I had heard of it’s existance but never seen it.  On our drive we passed a clearing in the roadside hedgerows through which I spotted this little stretch of the River Derry (above).

It was right next to this pretty little bridge (above) and anyone who knows me well will know that I love rivers and bridges and so we stopped so that I could take these photographs.

I also noticed this little engraved stone (below) and the heading on it interested me greatly.

‘Gate of Tears’ the inscription read and as I said this really interested me as we drove past it so Tony very kindly agreed to reverse up so that I could take a closer look and possibly photograph it.

What I read was truly touching and extremely beautiful…

The years are 1845-1847 and terrible destruction had hit Ireland due to a great famine as a result of the potato blight.  So much devastation was brought to this beautiful country that many were forced to leave the homes and family behind and emigrate to England and especially America in order to find hope of surviving.

This stone marked the spot where many of those “emigrants from Clenegal Parish had their last view of their native valley and the Wicklow Hills, here too they made their final goodbye to their relatives.

There is a chilling beauty in those words isn’t there?  As I said, they really touched me and I suspect they will touch you too.

As I said before, I am blessed.  In truth I have never experienced such a famine and in truth I probably never will, despite how the world’s economy seems to be going.

And as I said before I have a wonderful home and two, even three wonderful families.  But has that always been the case?

I may not have experienced famine but I have certainly experienced homelessness and I have certainly, in the past, left my family behind.

Mental illness can do that to someone.  It can cause you to do things other folk might never consider, to see things or perceive things in a way others seldom seem able to understand.  And it can seem to remove or place out of reach those things which we so desperately need to survive – assurance, acceptance, belonging, security, love.

Yes, many years ago when I was a young man all of those things seemed so very far out of reach for me and I left my home and family behind and went to live rough on the streets of England.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying they were not there, nor that they were actually out of reach, but thanks to my mental illness that is how they seemed and when something appears so obviously out of reach how likely are you to reach for it?

In truth I am older now, and much more experienced, and hopefully a little wiser. But even now I struggle to feel that assurance, that acceptance, that belonging, that security, that love which I spoke of.  I know of course that it is there and the rational part of me, the calm, clarity based, clear thinking and logical part of my mind tells me all those things are there.

But as much as they do, my mental illness and if I am honest sometimes the poor behaviour and judgment and comments and actions of others (and especially those they do and try to excuse through my mental illness) so regularly tell and show me differently.

As I said, I am older now, and much more experienced, and hopefully a little wiser.  And as I said before I have a wonderful home and two, even three wonderful families in my biological family back in th UK, my adopted family in the UK, USA and Canada and my blogging family stretched th world over.

When I read that stone my heart went out to those emigrants who left in search of hope and to their family members that they had to leave behind. As I write these words, my heart goes out to all of you and I hope and pray that you know how very special you each are and how important and essential family truly is.

As I said, I have never experienced famine but I do, as a result of my mental health, know what losing family is like.  No matter how hard it may seem, no matter how difficult the struggles, I hope and pray that not one of will let mental illness (or a poor response to it) be the reason to lose family members, or each other.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that our mental health will never be allowed to become our ‘Gate of Tears’.