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Sinead Kelly was awarded First Prize, in the Primary Grade of a recent, Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart Connacht Provincial Council, essay competition for this entry!
It was the Christmas holidays once again. The children of 6th class bustled about the classroom, going about their business. The radio was turned up high and ‘Jingle Bells’ could be heard throughout the corridors of the school, friends exchanged presents and Christmas cards, – but not Zoe.
Zoe stared out the window at the snowﬂakes which fell from the sky and gently caressed the ground. She had tried to count them but had given up when she reached 302. There must have been thousands upon thousands. They reminded her of the thousands of tears she had cried when her brother, Michael had died. He died of the effects and the inﬂuence of excessive alcoholic drinking, that had a grip on his young life. Zoe’s story will leave you in no doubt as to why she will NEVER BE AN UNDERAGE DRINKER.
Zoe was only ten at the time yet she still remembered it distinctly. The Taylor family had just moved to Dublin from Mayo. Everyone was beginning to settle in well. Her father had got a new job. Their future as a family certainly was not bleak. Michael started 3rd year in the secondary school and Zoe began 4th class in the local primary school. Everyone wanted to be Zoe’s friend as she was an extrovert, bubbly, humorous and basically fun to be with. However, Michael was a quiet one of the two and found it difficult to make friends. That’s probably how he mixed with the ‘wrong’ type. The type that inﬂuenced him to ‘drink’.
Michael’s long downhill road to death began when he was only 15. He began with mitching off school and then progressed to shop-lifting and stealing money to feed his alcohol habit. When Mum and Dad found out he was drinking there was a big row, fingers were pointed and accusations were made. It was the beginning of the end for Michael. He came home late and woke the whole family up. Zoe’s school-work slackened due to lack of sleep.
It was downhill all the way from there. Mum and Dad did all in their power to help and understand him. Unfortunately, it was too late for Michael.
Two years ago on December 22nd Michael committed suicide in his bedroom by slashing his throat. He was under the inﬂuence of alcohol. He left a note saying he couldn’t just watch himself linger on in the state he was living. He said it would be better to end himself before the drink did it for him. He said he was sorry for all the hurt he caused and they’d be better off without him. In his locker a photograph was found of Michael and Zoe in an amusement park the previous year. He was smiling. It read on the reverse side: “Zoe, please, forgive me, but don’t forget me. We had good times. Eh? Mickey”.
Yeah, they had good times and she won’t forget. The bell rang and the class was dismissed for two whole weeks. People hugged and squealed. Zoe trudged home through the snow and into the warm house. Dinner was served.
Everyone looked at Michael’s vacant seat.
A tear trickled down Zoe’s face and no one’s eyes met, for one whole minute there was silence. Zoe then remembered her promise to Michael, – to remember the good times, so she dried her eyes and broke the silence with “Mum pass the salt please!”
Written by Sinead Kelly
Published here 20 Feb 2023 and originally published December 1997
The Athenry Journal
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