It won’t always be like this. It’s going to get better.

It’s nearly 2am here and I can’t sleep even though I’ve got to get up and cycle my son to school tomorrow, before going to work. So I thought I’d come here and write something for the first time since October because my head is chainsawing again.

The last time I wrote here was when David died – well, two months after he died as it had taken me that long to find any words about it and I still don’t think I really said anything, and this post will be the same.

When I found out he died, after I finished work, I had posted on Facebook, in that way you do because you don’t know what else to do. The first person to get in touch with me, and who checked on me in the days after, was my friend Lyra. I mentioned her two blog posts ago here. I had first got in touch with her on Twitter in 2017, when I had watched a dramatisation of her beautiful letter to her 14 year old self, struggling with her sexuality, the journey of acceptance and hope and love. Please watch it.

I contacted her because I couldn’t believe someone from Belfast had written it. I had never heard these thoughts being voiced so openly and so compassionately, personally, articulately, in this country which still doesn’t allow gay marriage.

She had lost 2 people to suicide in the previous year and knew how I was feeling. I went straight from work to a pub and drank on my own. I rebuffed her offer to meet up because I felt so hollowed out. But she stayed patiently on the other end telling me however I wanted to cope with this it was okay.

I remember feeling not feeling. My chest was concrete. I didn’t want kind words. I was small and inside and felt, “Don’t touch me here in this place. Don’t try to touch me down here”. I shrank away. After David died, I publicly avowed, I am going to open up more. Because what I regret are those missed meetings. Those missed words. Those missed relationships, and days, and conversations and laughter and love. I’m not going to do this anymore. I am going to open myself up to friendships and people and love.

I didn’t, of course. I stayed the stone. And all my last conversations with Lyra are those of me cancelling plans, not replying to messages.

You will have heard about her because her death has outraged Northern Ireland and the UK and broken hearts. Lyra McKee, 29, who was shot dead in Derry, doing her job, the day before Good Friday. Lyra McKee, investigative journalist, writer, activist, a laugh, a sweetheart, hopeful, helpful, kind, generous with her time, her love, laid to rest in Saint Anne’s Cathedral with hundreds of people there, (me included), from everywhere, from every community, from every background, from the Houses of Parliament and the Dail.

I had been following the riots on Twitter then gone to sleep because riots here are nothing new. I woke up to a text from my sister saying she was sorry. Her murderers are still out there. Her sister has offered to meet them to turn themselves in. It is mindbendingly surreal that in 2019, a journalist, and our friend, was shot dead on the streets of Derry in the night by the IRA. She hadn’t long lived there. She had moved there to live with the love of her life. It was supposed to be the beginning and not the end.

She was murdered and I can’t get my head around that still. We weren’t close friends, but she was incredibly kind to me and I thought the world of her. She listened and counselled me through all my fears about moving back here (which feel well founded now to be honest. I can’t get my head around this still), my worries about raising Oisín here, the bad memories I have of this place, and the first night out in Belfast I had when I did come back was with her, pissed, wandering through the closed city centre, feeling like it was all going to be okay after all. A large part of me feels stupid and angry at myself for feeling so lost and upset at her death and of being awake again at 2.30am with her on my mind. The loss is something I find hard to fathom. The heartbreak and the absolute utter waste of someone who was changing the world for the better, the unfairness. She had many close friends. People often bullshit when people die. Say how wonderful they are when really they’re saying how wonderful they are for putting up with them. But no-one is bullshitting about Lyra. She was that wonderful. No-one has a bad word to say about her because there is nothing bad to say. She was a tiny genius dynamo and I wanted to be her. She was universally loved and her close friends and family have been pouring the love into action and doing her memory and themselves proud.

Ellen made this video – please watch it.

Her friends and family have just completed a 3 day peace walk from Belfast to Derry.

She is everywhere. In Writers Square where I last saw her and stole her chips, across the road where I said goodbye.

This is going to peter out here because I wanted to write a beautiful rallying cry befitting of her and everything she stood for and everything she did and would do and which those who loved her are doing in her honour. I wanted to link you all to her work which you should read.

But I can’t get my thoughts straight and I can’t sleep again and I am thinking of you, missus.


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