When the fun loving, sporty and mischievous fifteen year old George left for school on 2nd June 2004 little did we know that we had just had our last meal as a family of five. George, the youngest of three boys, left as usual in high spirits. Summer was coming, he had hopes of winning the 1,500 metres on sports day the following Friday and his head was buzzing with exciting holiday plans.
George was a picture of health, so when he collapsed and died while playing rounders at lunchtime that day, surrounded by his teachers and classmates, there was shock and devastation all round.
Niall Gilhooly, one of Georges friends, phoned his mother to tell her the terrible news;
” George is dead and I don’t know what to do.”
But the fourteen year old instinctively knew exactly what to do, Niall and his friends set about supporting each other and George’s family.
These youngsters were an extraordinary support to our family, arriving at our home unannounced, bringing their stories and ‘life’ to our saddened household. The ease with which these young people brought their support is hard to credit. It became a case of ‘everyone getting through this dreadful time for everyone else’. It all came out of love for George and respect for his memory.
As the years have unfolded our family have remained close to all of these youngsters. In a strange way it keeps George alive and these young teenagers, now young adults, have become lifelong family friends.
Recently Niall, now teaching in Australia, sent an extremely generous donation to CRY Ireland in memory of his friend. George obviously continues to be very much in his thoughts. He didn’t want a fuss or thanks; as always Niall moves quietly. However my husband Maurice and my two sons and I were overcome by his generosity and would like to take this opportunity to thank Niall for his kindness and friendship to us and to George and to thank a young man for the maturity and respect he displayed at one of the most difficult times of all our lives .
As I have mentioned, Niall is now teaching in Australia and I cannot imagine a more suitable candidate to become the mentor of young people.
Enclosed is a photo of George taken the December before he died and, on a happier note, a more recent photo of just a few of George’s wonderful friends taken at my eldest son’s wedding last summer.
Geraldine Fitzgerald, 18th October 2013.