On the day before Christmas Eve a young woman died in London. She was a Dublin girl over visiting her grandmother for the holidays. I didn’t know her, but I knew her to see, and I know many people who did know her well. She worked in the Job Centre Offices in Ballymun above the Ballymun Whitehall Partnership where I volunteer on a Monday. Maeve had told me of her death last night on the phone, and today the atmosphere in the building was one of stunned silence. Down in the Men’s Centre people were clearly upset. Many of the folk down there knew her, and had quite clearly been upset at the news of her death.
When Claire and I arrived at the JUST office, tucked at the back of the Job Centre complex, everyone was talking about the loss. Someone of thirty-two has no business with death. Teresa shared the most beautiful personal memory of her. This young woman was ‘on a journey,’ she said. She had started to attend Mass with the Jesuits on Gardner Street, and would come to work on the Monday excited by her experience of the Gospel choir. She was exploring her faith anew, and this was taking her to places where she would never have expected to have gone. She began to give up her free time to work with the inner city homeless, and ask questions about God. An odd request was a pink Bible. She had asked Teresa if she could find a pink Bible for her, and Teresa searched town until she found one for her.
A journey like this has a cruel end if that happens to be an early death. Life doesn’t make promises – more’s the pity. Kevin put it well when he commented on the last steps of her journey – ‘She has been fast tracked.’ Yes, I think that pilgrimages like this, and the sadness of their earthly conclusions, are vindicated by our sure hope of a swift transition to heaven.