CPL. Ciara M. Durkin
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About Ciara
From: Aine

Ciara Durkin was my sister. I was 19 years old when she was born. I loved her instantly, and I never stopped loving her every minute of her life. I will never stop loving her.

Four years later, when I married and moved to Donegal in 1981, it was Ciara I missed the most. I missed her hugs and her constant chatter and funny remarks. I felt like I was leaving a daughter behind me. I think that is how all of us sisters felt about Ciara. She was more than just a sister. She was our little girl. And that is how she remained all of her life. Our little girl.

My parents moved to Boston when Ciara was 9 years old. I think I cried for days and days. Little did I know that my father’s death a matter of months later would bring Ciara back to my sister Angela and me in Ireland, if only for a few more years. She lived with Angela mainly and spent her school holidays with me and my family in Donegal.

She was a lively girl, full of vim and vigour and a tomboy to the last. She preferred to be playing football, mucking about outside with my husband and kids, rather than watch television or lay about in her room. She was not an indoor person. She helped willingly with any chore she was given but could not wait to have the chore completed so that she could get on with the fun things in life. She was only three years older than my oldest child, and my children loved their aunt to bits. When my husband would mistakenly introduce Ciara to visitors as his niece, she’d put her hands on her hips and declare “I’m not your niece, I’m your sister-in-law!” and shake her head in mock exasperation . The memory of that still makes me smile.

My husband and I have fond memories of the last time Ciara came to Ireland. It was in 2004, I believe. She had returned here for a short holiday and came to visit us at our holiday home in Connemara. We asked her to fill us in on the past few years of her life. The following couple of hours with Ciara will remain with me forever. My husband and I did interject from time to time with a “You did what?!” or a “Jeepers, Ciara!” and we would all laugh as she’d say, “I know, I know” as if to acknowledge the variety and jumble of adventures that had been her life until then. There were tears, but they were tears of laughter. Bumps along the way had happened in her life, she had embraced them and learnt from them. That was Ciara.

I miss Ciara so much but, then again, I've missed her enormously since she went back to
the States from Ireland many years ago. Our get togethers since then were far
too infrequent. How I envy those who had so much time with her in latter years. In one respect, they are the lucky ones. In another respect, her sudden loss from their lives leaves a deeper wound. For all of us, there are many sad years of healing ahead.

The last time I spoke with Ciara was by phone the day before she returned to Afghanistan in September 2007. I had tried to catch her at one of my sisters’ houses in Boston on more than one occasion but she was always on the move. She had two weeks holiday and she was living life to the full – as usual! There were baseball matches to attend and family and friends to entertain. Finally, I managed to get her on the phone the afternoon before she returned to Afghanistan for the last time. She was in great spirits and spoke mainly about her holiday. She spoke of her excitement about having her tour of duty finished in February as she had so many plans for the future. She told me that she and Pierce, our brother, intended buying a place together when she returned and she hoped to eventually get married and have children. She spoke of her love for Haidee. She spoke of college and furthering her education. She had plans and she sounded so positive.

When I think of Ciara, thoughts of her death make me cry. But memories of her life make me smile, so I try to focus on the words and deeds of love, affection, support and laughter we shared with her. The heavy burden of her loss is enough to bear without constantly speculating as to what happened to her. Sadly, Ciara is no longer here to answer my questions, to tell me what occurred that night, to put my mind at ease. And even if she could tell me, it would not bring her back to us, and that is the saddest truth of all. I am hoping that my lovely memories of her will one day bring me back the happiness that has deserted me since she died.

I have one abiding memory of Ciara, one that returns to me regularly to remind me of how unique she was. I call this memory one of the ‘gifts’ I have been granted in life. It has to do with Ciara in her capacity as caregiver. She had once worked as a caregiver in Boston with people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. My sister Angela and I were visiting Boston in 2005 and Ciara included a visit to her former work place in our tour itinerary. She wanted us to meet her former colleagues and the clients in the rest home. As we entered the living area, one by one the patients rose and, with open arms, they said “Ciara, you’ve come back to us” or “Ciara, we missed you” as they, one by one, hugged her. She remembered all their names and smiled, with genuine fondness in her kind blue eyes, as she hugged each and every one in turn. One small elderly lady, who had been patiently waiting for her opportunity to hug Ciara, put her arms around Ciara’s waist, looked up into her face and said “I can’t remember who you are but I know I love you”. And Ciara said “I love you too” as she gave her a big hug. I felt humbled in the presence of such devotion and kindness. That was the essence of Ciara. You did not have to know or remember why, you just knew that you loved her.

Being in Ciara’s company made me proud and happy; happy that she was full of life
and vim and vigour; proud because she was such a good, kind, accepting person.
That is what I loved most about her. Her ability to accept without judgment. It is a rare quality in people.

I hope, by sharing my thoughts with you, you get a sense of our Ciara, and that you will remember her from time to time and send her a hug. She was a great one for hugs! Thank you for caring enough about her, and about us, to read this piece. Think of her with laughter and joy because that is what she brought to me and to my life. She was a very special person. I miss her so much.

Ciara’s Chorus

A little redhead
Joined our orchestra of
Black, brunette and blonde

She pulled our strings
And we danced merrily
To the music of her melody

Sometimes we grew weary
Of the constant dance
Beseeching her to ease the ties
And let us rest awhile

And she would smile
Cut the cord
She’d wrapped around her little finger
And watch
As we scrambled to grasp the trailing twine
That swayed from side to side
As she waltzed her way
Around the dance floor of life.

©Áine Durkin
September 2008.