Wednesday May 6th 2020
This week was to be one of great celebration for the Cork Life Centre. We had planned to take some time to mark the 20th birthday of our organisation-to celebrate the growth, the journey, the highlights and above all else the young people that are the heartbeat of our work and our community. We had invited so many friends old and new and people we admire to visit and speak with us.
In a themed week today we were to focus on trauma and adverse childhood experiences. The highlight of this day was having the opportunity to dedicate what was to be our newly built contact centre to an incredible friend that we lost at the end of 2019.
We have a message inside our red door which reads ‘Welcome-May All Who Enter as Guests Leave as Friends’ In 2017 Shane Griffin visited our annual conference to share with us his journey through the care system and to speak to his passion about advocating for children in the care system. Meeting Shane and hearing his story had a fundamental impact on our work and journey- indeed he left after that visit as a friend and we stayed in regular contact.
Shane took every opportunity to celebrate our young people and their achievements and to shine a light on the right of our students to education. Ahead of his untimely passing we had secured him as a guest of honour at our 20th anniversary conference. When this didn’t prove possible we felt it apt to name our contact centre for Shane-this seemed right to have his name on a building that will allow children in care to meet in a safe and child-friendly space with their families.
On his first visit Shane also introduced us to the amazing team at Frontline Films who were doing some filming with him at the time around a possible documentary about his life. This introduction blossomed into a wonderful working relationship and the filming and production of ‘The (Un)Teachables documentary about our work that recently aired on Virgin Media One. Every time we would speak to Shane on the phone or online he would talk about how excited he was about the project and the attention it would bring to our work. He was in our hearts and minds as the documentary aired and it was bittersweet that he was not there watching with us.
Our 20th anniversary celebrations will go ahead as soon as circumstances allow, building of the contact centre will be completed and it will bear Shane’s name. But it felt important to remember Shane today and we hope this poem even in a small way captures our great friend and the impact he made on us and so many:
A Poem for Shane
You grew up small and strong.
It wasn’t a choice.
Vulnerable was only a name,
For a place you couldn’t go,
And you went so many places.
Too many to count them all up,
Childhood is about innocence and vulnerability,
But you had to be small and strong.
You got stronger and stronger,
Until you couldn’t feel anything.
But that wasn’t safe either,
There’s danger in strength,
And a loneliness beyond words.
No one can get in and only a few try.
But the few take on the role of many,
In the story you will later tell.
You tell it to people who cannot imagine what you have seen,
Where you have been.
There’s healing and hurt in the telling.
You keep telling so you might help them imagine.
And you can pick out in the crowd those who don’t need to imagine,
Those who know,
And they matter to you most.
There is you in them.
For what they are still living,
And for all the time you were small, and strong, and silent
Now you roar.
But it doesn’t sound like anger or violence or even pride.
It is strangely soft for hard truths.
It wafts over us.
It is truth, it is love,
It is even forgiveness.
BUT IT IS NOT ACCEPTANCE.
Acceptance will never come.
Not while there is one in the crowd who knows.
Not as long as there are still children who are small and strong,
Who are hurt and terrified,
Who are alone.
And who know things they should not know,
See things that should not be seen.
Your beautiful gentle roar,
It is undeniable,
In spite of all you’ve been denied.
And people are starting to listen,
And this is energising.
But you are so tired,
More tired than any of us know.
You’ve been carrying the weight of a heavy world,
Ever since you were small and strong,
And as a new year approaches,
You let down your load.
And for all you have known,
You will not know the darkness that descends,
And that is right.
You have known enough.
But the darkness will begin to grey,
And we will gather ourselves,
And take up your roar.
So find peace, don’t be strong,
Rest easy dear friend.
We will do our very best.
To keep it lit.