It only takes a split second to make a preventable mistake you can never take back, writes Lisa Marie Maher
It was June 30, 2015. The hottest day of the year. At 7.20pm. The phone rang. “Make your way to the hospital,” my mam said, “your dad’s been knocked down.”
I knew Dad would have been out on his bicycle that day. My mind froze; a short time later I was in Beaumont Hospital begging to see my father.
“I’m very sorry,” the neurosurgeon said. “We have done all we can, there is nothing more we can do.”
“Please, no!” I screamed. I was held down by two nurses, who told me it would be ok. ‘Ok?’ I thought, ‘no it will never be ok’. Never!
I saw my mam crumble in shock and my brother rise to his feet in protest. This can’t be happening. I’m in a nightmare.
We were told to call relatives and anyone who we wished to say goodbye. “24 hours is all you have,” we were told.
We were rushed to ICU. Dad wasn’t going to wait 24 hours – he was ready to go.
I stood in that room, my dad still alive, barely. I whispered in his ear and told him how I loved and adored him, how I promised to fulfil my dreams and ambitions, how I would make him so proud.
I begged him not to go but I felt his energy telling me: ‘Be strong, girl, you’ve got this. Remember all I ever taught you. Don’t worry, this is my time. You still have yours, use it wisely.’
In that moment by his bedside, my connection with my dad was stronger than any I have ever known. Even in silence on his death bed, I could hear every word he was telling me. To this day I hear that voice, once my guide in life, and now my guide in death.
I looked at my distraught mam, her tears dropping in an even flow gently onto his face. She spoke of all the great times they shared, she begged him not to go, they had so many plans and exciting things to share and do together. I watched her, helpless, her soulmate drifting out of life… my heart ached. I grasped Dad’s hand tighter; I promised him I would take care of her.
My brother’s face was grey and pale. Here was his dying dad, his best friend. The man who showed him how to be a man, to be honourable, honest, fair and generous. Taught him to be a family man and to go after his dreams.
My dad lived for his family – and he died with us all by his side. Goodbye my ol’ buddy, ol’ pal…
I never left that room, you know. My heart is still there, holding his hand, kissing his cheek. Whispering in his ear, watching him breathe, feeling his heart beat through his chest. I cherish that time. I got to say my brief goodbye.
At 11.43 pm on Thursday, June 30, 2015, my beautiful dad took his last breath. Heaven gained an angel.
How was I ever going to find the strength to cope? I never knew pain, until that moment of my life.
One year to the day after my dad died, June 30, 2016, my third baby, my little miracle baby, was born. A gift from my dad, a little piece of heaven on earth. Sent to bring some happiness to a time of year that could forevermore have brought sadness and mourning. I believe that my dad had a plan, and Ollie was it! Handpicked by my hero in heaven to bring some light back into our shattered lives.
There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t miss him. I long for a chat, a hug, to see his beautiful face.
Eugene Maher is my dad. He was killed in a preventable road crash while out cycling. He wasn’t sick or old, he was healthy and full of vibrant life – he shouldn’t be dead. But he is, because of a split-second decision someone else made and will regret for the rest of their lives.
My story is real. It will never change. But I hope that hearing my story can change the course of yours. Since my dad died, 713 people have died on Irish roads. Hundreds of families living the same nightmare – the same, preventable nightmare. I didn’t write the pages of my story, but I have to live it every day.
Next time you use a phone or speed up, get into a car with drink, break a light, drive tired or turn to scream at your kids to be quiet while you try to concentrate, just remember – it can happen anytime, anywhere to anyone. It’s better to arrive a little late, than not at all.
My dad – four long years dancing among the stars. We miss him more now than we ever did. I struggle through more days now than I did at the start. It’s hard to let go and concede that he is never coming home. Time passes, life goes on, most people forget. But we never, ever do.
We cannot save the lives we have lost, but we can use their stories to save the lives of others. Don’t let my story become your story.
This article first appeared in the Sunday Independent
Lisa Marie Maher
10th December 2019