I’ve previously written for the Irish Times about the Samhain Celtic Festival in Stockholm and how it showcases the powerful array of talent in the Irish diaspora, combining it with a worthy cause.
What I probably haven’t written enough about is the effect that it can have on the wider community here.
This year, Galway native Brendan Grehan took Samhain a step further, but when he suggested to me that the recipient charity for 2014 was to be Suicide Zero, an organisation working to prevent suicide in Sweden, neither of us had any idea how far the ripples might reach.
Brendan, from Ballinasloe via Australia to Hässelby in Stockholm, has had his own struggles.
An immensely talented young man, he has had to deal with the passing of his parents and the drudgery of demanding day jobs as tries to create a future for himself in a world where he often felt – and sometimes still feels – very alone.
But Brendan has music, in his mind and his blood and his soul, and it keeps him going. It helps him chase away the demons, and he made up his mind to help others find the same joy in it by sharing its benefits with those in a similar position.
The festival was started by the brilliant Brian Burns a few years back, going from strength to strength.
Wicklow man Brian passed on much of the responsibility for organising the 2014 version to Brendan.
One of those people is Eva, whose daughter Helena took her own life in January 2013, aged 21.
In the blog post below, kindly reproduced from the Suicide Zero web site, she describes how she felt when Brendan stretched out the hand of friendship in his new community.
By some remarkable coincidence, the last trip Eva’s Helena made abroad was to our island, and , it was to Eva that Brendan spoke when he was looking for a charity to donate the Samhain proceeds to.
I have no religious faith at all, but in a way it’s hard not to see the invisible hand of the old Celtic god Taliesin – god of the bards, the poets, and of wisdom and knowledge - in what follows.
But the gods don’t solve our problems.
The gods don’t put their arms around our shoulders when we need help and support, treatment or just company.
The only ones that can do that are the people we meet every day – our family, our friends, our neighbours, and the services available to us when we our strength runs out.
The ones who can do that are people like Suicide Zero and Brendan, who, having has such help at various times himself, now helps others by being a bright, shining light in the darkness.
Isn’t that just awesome?
By Eva Wedberg
“HELENA! Helena !!
Do you know what happened today?
I spoke to an Irish guy on the phone.
He plays in a band that wants to donate the proceeds from a gig to Suicide Zero and he called me up to get the account number where the money can be deposited.
We talked for a while. I was of course curious as to why the band chose to support Suicide Zero.
Many who wish to support the association have in some way been affected by suicide and mental illness.
This was the case with him too, so we talked for a while about it.
In English, Helena.
You would have been proud of me.
I just had to tell him that it meant so much extra for me to work with the Irish.
About how you were fascinated by Ireland.
I told him about your trip to Dublin in the fall of 2012, your last trip abroad. About the key rings with Irish motifs that you bought as gifts to daddy and I.
Finally I told him about the song Galway Girl, that you had as an alarm on your phone when you woke up in the mornings. The one where they sing about the girl whose “hair is black and her eyes are blue” – just like you.
The first song on my “Helena List” on Spotify.
I asked if he knew the song “Galway Girl”.
And can you imagine? The guy was from Galway.
So Helena: I’ve talked to a person who comes from Galway!
Isn’t that just awesome?! Are you jealous?
I was talking to an Irishman other day and we were just talking about what I wrote above. I have been so frustrated.
This was really something I wanted to tell Helena – to pick up the phone, and call and say: “You’ll never guess what happened today.”
I have been deceived by my subconscious; I seriously thought about how I could get the message to her.
Facebook, phone, letter, smoke signals, Morse?
There must be a way. I have to tell you – she will think it’s so funny. Or else she’d say something like: “Mum dearest, isn’t it time that you got a life?”
This happens sometimes.
Things I must tell Helena.
Things that I associate specifically with her, memories we have together, shared jokes.
Or things that only she can understand.
And I get so frustrated. You know that feeling – “I can’t wait till I can tell you about this or that”. One longs to see that person’s face.
To talk and to vent a while, laughing.
That feeling comes around about Helena, too, and I have to get it out somehow.
I’ve previously written that I talk to her anyway. And sometimes I write letters.
And just that I am writing about here.
The paradox is that much of what I want to tell you about is precisely because she does not exist.
As a result of the fact that I’ve lost her, part of my life has taken a different direction. I have met many dedicated and fantastic people after Helena.
I would tell her about all these people, if I could.
I realise that it is difficult to get the message to Helena as I would like, so I’m writing this instead.
I wasn’t the only one who knew how much Helena loved Galway Girl. She saw the movie PS I Love You many times, not least because Gerald Butler – “the hottest in the world,” according to her – sang the song in the film.
So to Helena’s friends and to you, dear reader – I’ve talked to a guy from Galway!!
Isn’t that just awesome?