A mum whose son died by suicide aged 20, recalls the night he never came home and how a support group has helped her grieve
BY the tender age of 20, Corey O’Callaghan had done a lot in his young life.
The second eldest of six children, he was big into music, mostly Irish hip-hop, and he performed all over the country, including Dublin and Belfast.
“He joined a music project in The Hut in Gurranabraher,” says Lynda. Corey’s mother.
“He was gifted in every way. Corey and his pal, Trigger, an up-coming music artist, were going places with their music.
“Their original recordings raised money for charities, a bit like Band Aid. Corey was multi-talented,” says Lynda.
“He had his own special creativity. There was just something about him since he was born. He could have taken any road.”
Corey, only out of childhood himself, helped others on their road to adulthood.
“Friends said he helped them cope through their struggles during their teenage years,” says Lynda.
“I often wondered how he did that. He would listen to them and offer advice.”
Corey returned to the College of Commerce to sit his Leaving Cert and he continued on to Farranferris College to study computers.
“He was a whizz on the computer, achieving all high merits,” says Lynda. “His teachers and his tutors were all blown away by his talents. He was so humble himself.”
“And he was a great writer,” says Lynda. “The lyrics of his songs touched everybody. The feedback was amazing.
“Corey was wise beyond his years; and a sensitive soul. My mother used to say that he was here before.
“He believed that everyone was equal. Corey was like a philosopher. The world was his oyster.”
The best should have been yet to come. But Corey didn’t live to see it. He died three weeks before his 21st birthday.
Lynda recalls the night that Corey was in high spirits going out with friends.
“They were all upbeat, looking forward to hearing a good band,” says Lynda. “Music was their thing.”
But Corey never came home to her that night.
“There was an Irish band from the North playing in the Groves,” says Lynda. “Corey was going to the gig with his sister, Sherelle, and 20 pals. They both had the same pals and they all hung around together. After the gig, they all headed into town to go clubbing.”
Sherelle came home but Corey didn’t.
“His sister assumed Corey had got a different cab to her and that he was on his way home,” says Lynda.
“Corey would always tell me where he was. And he’d never stay over in another house,” says Lynda.
“He liked to come home and wake up in his own bed. He was private that way. Even though it was still early enough, in the early hours, alarm bells started to ring.”
Lynda waited for Corey to appear like he always did, full of smiles and songs, surprising her with a stolen kiss or a hug that she didn’t expect.
He never came.
“I got more agitated as the day wore on,” says Lynda.
“In the afternoon I started to panic. I told his step-dad and as the night drew in, I rang the guards.”
Lynda went upstairs. She looked out the window where children played in the Farmer’s Field, a well-known local playground.
“The field is at the back of St Aidan’s school where Corey went to school,” says Lynda. “I noticed smallies playing ball in the field.”
And then she saw something else.
“Whatever way I looked;,I saw flashlights in the field. I saw a big group of people gathered.” And she knew.
“I ran through the field, asking the pals gathered; was that Corey? Is that my son?” Nobody answered her. But she knew.
“A young ban garda comforted me,” says Lynda.
“She said her sergeant had to confirm Corey’s death to his step-dad. But I knew myself he was gone. She told me then.”
A priest, Fr John O’Donovan, comforted Lynda. “He grabbed my hand and he brought me over to Corey,” says Lynda.
“Fr John had anointed Corey and he had stayed with him. I was glad I didn’t wait to see Corey until he got to CUH. The priest said it was vital I see him now. He told me to look at his face. To look at the smile, the most beautiful smile, and know that he was at peace.”
Lynda knew her son was at peace. She just knew.
“That was the feeling I got.”
She had so many questions though.
“Corey had so much to live for,” says Lynda. “Everyone was mad about him. His teachers would say; ‘where did you get him? We’re all mad about him’.
“Afterwards I was told how much he meant to people and how kind he was. Corey was everyone’s friend. He was so popular.
“Yet, he didn’t want the limelight. He would write songs out of the top of his head and give the credit to others.”
Lynda didn’t know what to do.
“I was in shock for the first year,” she says. “I love all my children, but Corey and I had that something special, you know?”
His friends all came to say goodbye.
“He had so many friends, yet he was isolated. I saw that in hindsight,” says Lynda.
Corey came home one more time.
“I had to have him home,” says Lynda. “I had to sleep with him in the house. The day before he was buried, a feed from Kiss FM was streamed live into my front room, with people from all over saying their own special tributes to Corey and playing his music. That was special.”
Lynda misses Corey out of the house.
“I feel him there,” she says. “I think he got tired of life. He just got tired. I know that now.”
She also knows that Corey’s legacy of supporting people and being there for others should continue.
“Corey left a note which helped console me,” says Lynda.
“Now I had a piece of him. Fr John gave it to me after the funeral. I read it out at the celebrations for his 21st birthday; May 11, 2013. We still went ahead with that. He was planning a party. It gave me, the family, and his friends some bit of closure.”
And new doors were opened.
“Circle of Hope is a support group for people bereaved by suicide,” says Lynda.
“Unfortunately our community suffered numerous deaths by suicide in 2013.”
Five young people in one small area of Ballyvolane and Dublin Hill died by suicide within a few months of each other in 2013.
“The community was in despair,” says Lynda.
It was time for action.
“Our group started off with a running group called the Wibbly Wobblies,” says Lynda with a smile. “We did a couple of marathons. The Circle of Hope came about in a bid to raise awareness about suicide and to offer support for the bereaved. We meet regularly at Murphy’s Rock. The group realise that it is very important to remember our loved ones; we can relate to each other.
“Fr John allowed us to erect a plaque in the grounds of St Oliver’s Church to remember our loved ones and every Christmas we each tie a yellow ribbon around the community Christmas Tree in remembrance of those we have lost.”
Does the enormity of grief ever go away? “You know, grieving is another form of love,” says Lynda.
“We continue to grieve and we continue to mourn. I still celebrate Corey’s life. He is still doing good. That’s loving.”
That much she knows.
For more about the group email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For anyone seeking support, email Pieta House Cork: 021-4341400. Freephone:1800 247 247. The Darkness into Light 5km walk takes place in aid of Pieta House at 4.15am on May 6 at venues around Cork, see www.darknessintolight.ie for more.