CPL. Ciara M. Durkin
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About Ciara
From: Deirdre

As we approach the first anniversary of Ciara’s death, I find myself wanting everyone to be reminded of Ciara, to remember who she was and tell them about the many people whose lives she touched. Many of you didn’t know her so I want to tell you who she was to my children and me.

Ciara, like our brother Pierce, was a gift to our family. I recall it was close to my 16th birthday when my mother announced she was pregnant and I recall thinking it was the best birthday present ever! I was right.

Ciara was born into a close, loving family, in a near idyllic country setting in Connemara, Ireland. We had a mother and a father who loved and protected us and I don’t ever recall them exchanging an angry word with each other. It was a wonderful childhood for me, and Ciara and Pierce only added to the joy. In recent years, Ciara and I would often discuss this and we would both comment on how blessed we were to be born into such a wonderful family, so full of love for each other.

Every family suffers a loss when they lose a member but the loss of Ciara is just about unbearable. Why? Because she brought so much joy. She really could “light up a room with her smile”. It’s cliché, but very true when it comes to Ciara. She took her greatest pleasure out of giving and loving others. She knew she made people happy and she took great pleasure from this.

Was she perfect? Absolutely not – she was as flawed as all human beings are…but, her flaws were so minor compared to many of us and her imperfections were part of what made her so endearing to everyone. She took care of her responsibilities as best she could, and was always focused on improving and evolving as a person. She accepted her imperfection as we all must and she knew her family accepted them too. It was part of what made Ciara who she was and we loved the person she was.

She was generous to a fault, she was funny, happy, and untidy, and could drive us crazy, but her intentions were always to do right by us, to love, help and protect us. She was not a judgmental person and she always focused on the future, not on the past. This is the Ciara I knew and loved.

When we first heard of Ciara’s passing, we wanted to talk and tell people about our lovely sister so we welcomed those who asked about her. We stopped talking when it became too overwhelming. My sister, Áine, describes us as “an ordinary family in an extraordinary situation” and I think that just about sums it all up. The constant slew of reporters was taking its toll on all of us. For me, I didn’t want our loss to have an even more negative impact on my children, who had already lost their father and had, I felt, being through enough. I had to give them back the stability of our beautifully boring normal day-to-day lives, so I stepped back from the media. It’s a decision I have not regretted once. Having said that, I understand people’s interest, and the overwhelming love and concern for our family is a large part of the reason why I'm writing this piece. Thank you, each and every one of you, for reaching out to us; the heart-warming love and affection you share is what keeps us going.

I remember when Ciara first started talking about joining the army, many years ago. She was still in high school. She wanted to contribute her bit to the world. She wanted to help in whatever way she could and at the same time, it offered her an opportunity to continue her education. I, for one, was not pleased with this idea because it was a life with which my family was unfamiliar so I was thrilled when she changed her mind and found employment elsewhere.

There are some parts of Ciara’s life that I don’t have many memories of because, as with many families, I married, had children and didn’t keep track of everything that was happening in all my sibling’s lives. We were in touch constantly but we didn’t live out of each other’s pockets and we just got on with the day-to-day happenings.

About three years ago, Ciara once again began talking about her desire to join the army and serve her country. This time though, I thought it was a good idea. Ciara was now older, she had enjoyed herself immensely and it was time to settle down. She was street smart but I could see how she would gain a lot from the army. She seemed to thrive on the discipline that came with it once she joined up. She always strived to be healthy and the army pushed her to exercise so she would pass whatever tests they had. She also grew to see the army as her other family. I gather from talking to those who trained and served with her that she was well-liked and brought many smiles wherever she was at any given time. This comes as no surprise to our family.

I’ve always believed that for a life to be truly worthwhile, you have to know you’re contributing something to it somehow and that you’re evolving as a person. It doesn’t have to be anything of major importance but at least some small contribution. I truly believe Ciara contributed more than most and I will tell you why I believe this. Ciara made us discuss and debate things. She hid very little and was proud of who she was. She knew she was loved so she expressed herself pretty freely. She taught me and many others about the difficulties gay people face while trying to affirm their identity in a world that tries to forbid and condemn the relationship preferences of two consenting adults.

Now, unintentionally, Ciara is educating us again. Because of her, we’re being forced to look at life once more and to see how it can be turned upside down in a moment. Ciara has made us question, probe, analyze and most importantly, THINK. Ciara was a huge thinker herself and loved to discuss a variety of subjects. She LOVED life and she loved many people in it.

As many people know, Ciara was very protective of my children and me after my husband died. She would do whatever she could to ease what many would consider my burdens. I love Ciara for many things but most of all I love her for taking my children under her wing, which she did of her own accord and without encouragement from anyone. She felt particularly protective of my son and she contributed greatly to his maturing as a teenager. He knew she “ had his back” and she loved that he knew it. One day, out of the blue, she decided that she was going to be their ‘father figure’ and she fell so easily into the role! She also decided that they needed to do more chores around the house and that they would be awarded with a $5 allowance each week if they did their chores. Even while she was in Afghanistan, she would call or email to see if they were doing them but she would always send that $5 regardless. The love Ciara showed towards my children will be something I’ll never forget and for which I will be forever grateful.

Ciara and I were very close. We talked for hours and hours when she was home on leave and there was a lot of laughter. She was hilarious and had the best wit. We would play off each other’s sense of humor, often with Haidee as our sidekick. We’d just laugh and laugh and laugh. I would watch Ciara and Haidee together and be so happy about the beautiful relationship they had. I was so happy for Ciara because she was at the best place in her life. She was doing a job she loved and was soon to return home to those who loved her. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I have never seen Ciara so at peace and content as when she was on her last vacation home in September 2007.

Ciara was a person who loved life and verbalized it often. The following is an email she wrote to us on March 06, 2007:

“ Hey gang,
Just wanted to take a moment to tell you a few things. Firstly, I love you all very much. I reach deep into my heart and look at the wonderful memories I have with you when I need strength. I've been very lucky to have such amazing people in my life. I chose this job knowing the risks but it was the right thing to do. I really love it and I love doing something that I truly believe protects all of you. I look at life very differently now but in a good way. Life is beautiful and we need to cherish and appreciate all the amazing things and people we have in our lives. I want you to know that I do everything I can to keep myself safe and I'm really looking forward to holding each of you in my arms again soon.
I'll write again when I can but please know that I love you all very very much. Stay strong! Tell the kids I love them and make sure mom gets a copy of this.
Love you,

Ciara always finished her emails and conversations with "I love you" because this is the type of loving, giving person she was.

I’ve left so much out of this piece and it’s already far longer than I intended when I began writing. My mind is full of thoughts and memories of Ciara and although I’m not a writer, there is one thing I can do, and that's describe who Ciara was and all that was this beautiful, beautiful soul who I will forever miss.

Deirdre Durkin

(Proud sister of Ciara Durkin)