I dedicate my song today to lately deceased, Helen Walsh, who lived in Carrick-on-Suir and is now in heaven. I wish her a heavenly birthday, and remind her husband Liam Walsh that she loved him, her children, and their grandchildren greatly.
It was in April 2020 when Helen and I last communicated with each other. Both of us were going through a bad patch then and were waiting for hospital operations. The cancer in my forehead had spread and an extremely dangerous neck dissection operation was planned when the pandemic virus allowed me hospital admission. In Carrick-on-Suir, the pressure of Helen’s tumour on the brain had built up too high again, and she was also awaiting hospital admission. Helen and I supported each other through messages back and forth.
Helen told me that in August 2019, she had a stroke and was later diagnosed with cancer of the lungs and lymph nodes. She was discharged from the hospital in September 2019, and by Christmas 2019 Helen was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and was placed on palliative care only. Forever thinking about others, Helen characteristically worried more about the future of her family than her own imminent death as her very last words messaged to me in April 2020 indicated. She messaged, “I am married to Liam. We are blessed to have 6 lovely children and 13 grandchildren. I just want to see them happy again. I hope that makes sense to you Bill, and thank you for listening to me. It means a lot to me.”
I have many Facebook contacts in Carrick-on-Suir who follow my daily songs (the next-door village to the village of Portlaw where I was born) and only saw a June entry for the death of Helen two days ago. I was so sad to have not been available to talk with Helen as her end of life approached. So was such a good woman, God rest her soul, and please provide comfort to her husband, Liam, her six children and all of her grandchildren and extensive family. Your friend in ill-heath. Bill xxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
My song today is ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. This song was recorded by Bill Withers in 1971 album, and reflects the current shadow that has fallen over the lives of her husband and family members, because of Helen’s loss.
When this song was first released, I was starting my life in my new career as a Probation Officer serving in the ‘Huddersfield Probation and After-Care Office’ in West Yorkshire. I recall that one of my earliest clients was a married woman and the mother of two children who lived in Meltham, Huddersfield. She had left a shop one day without paying from an item which she had placed in her bag. She had sufficient money in her purse to pay for the item and she told the police that she was on anti-depressant tablet medication, and had simply forgotten to pay.
Although she had no previous convictions and appeared to be a person of prior good character, she was obviously a highly-stressed woman and her offence was probably seen by the sentencing Magistrate’s Court as being an unconscious ‘cry for help’. She was placed on Probation supervision for 18 months, and I became her supervising officer.
She had been married less than five years and her youngest child was a son aged three years old. He had a condition that we know today as ‘autism’ and it was at the severest end of the spectrum. Although the condition of autism had been defined as being a condition of an emotionally disturbed and socially distanced state since the mid-1940s, more about its possible causes and diverse symptoms and effects were not really known about until the onset of the New Millennium.
In 1971, the condition was commonly thought by many parents to have been caused as a result of the child having been vaccinated, whereas today that view is largely discounted, and we know that there is no single root cause. This condition is a complex disorder and symptoms vary from one person to another. It appears that both genetics and environmental factors may play a role in this condition which usually affect brain development and the communication of the individual. While today, much more is known about the condition of autism, way back in 1971, many mothers of autistic children ‘blamed themselves’ for having either experienced pregnancy complications or having decided to submit their child to be vaccinated.
After their autistic son was born, family harmony became more difficult to maintain, and before long, the marital relationship began to witness constant parental arguments. The source of husband and wife arguments usually involved how best to respond to some of their son’s behaviour, which the mother generally accepted as being ‘unavoidable’ (given his autism) but which the father of the boy viewed as being ‘unacceptable’. While the boy’s mother did her best to cope with the increased pressure and stress that her son’s condition and behaviour caused, the boy’s father couldn’t handle it and became more and more emotionally distant from his son. Both man and wife still loved each other, but grew to dislike the constant pressure and arguments which coping with their autistic child produced.
The wife’s husband had served four and a half years in the Army before they had met and married. He had initially signed on for a 22-year term, and had he remained a bachelor, he would have undoubtedly gone on to make the Army his lifetime career instead of curtailing his 22-year contract and getting married instead.
Before his autistic had grown into his fourth year of life, the father had become wholly disheartened by the boy’s medical and social condition, and the upshot was that he signed up in the army once more. He essentially found it easier to remain to be both a husband and a father ‘from a distance’, and so, the way he chose ‘to stay with his wife and children’ was ‘to leave them’ for most of the year in the family house in Huddersfield. The husband signed on for another three years as a soldier and, apart from regular letters back home, plus the occasional phone call on birthdays and wedding anniversary dates, until he was discharged back into civilian life, he only returned home to see his wife and children when he was on leave.
While I would not have accepted 10-1 odds on their marriage lasting after the husband had signed back up in the Army, I was wrong. The married couple seemed to get on much better with their ‘time apart’ or ‘time out’ situation, and it seemingly made their time spent at home as a family unit more rewarding when he came home on leave. I always recall her saying how much she missed her husband’s presence in the home. and how she would automatically brighten up whenever he came back home on Army leave.
Today’s song reminds me of this family, as well as reminding me of my late friend, Helen Walsh who celebrates her heavenly birthday today.
Love and peace Bill xxx