Dear Sis­ter Ber­ch­mans,

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News -

HOW lovely it was for me to get that cup of tea and slice of toast on those mis­er­able Mon­day morn­ings in the early 1980s. There you were in the din­ing room at St Joseph’s School for Blind Boys, Drum­con­dra, cheer­fully dish­ing out the break­fasts to all the lads.

My son Stu­art and I usu­ally ar­rived shortly af­ter 8am, hav­ing driven from Athy. No mo­tor­ways in those days, so the jour­ney was long. We usu­ally left at 6.30am. Stu­art had started at St Joseph’s in Septem­ber 1980, aged just six. It broke our hearts to send him away to board­ing school, but in those days we had no choice. He was to­tally blind and, apart from a vis­it­ing teacher for a few hours on a Mon­day, there was noth­ing more that could be of­fered at a lo­cal pri­mary school.

So there we were, ei­ther my hus­band or my­self, trav­el­ling to Drum­con­dra ev­ery Mon­day and Fri­day. You see, we promised Stu­art that he would never have to spend a week­end away from home — and he didn’t! He was way ahead of his time (re­mem­ber Pope John Paul II) kiss­ing the stairs, his bed­room door and the hall door be­fore get­ting into the car on a Mon­day morn­ing. The most fre­quently asked ques­tion on these Mon­day morn­ing jour­neys was “Where are we now?” and the lit­tle voice would get more anx­ious the nearer we got to the city.

But then, at St Joseph’s, there was you, Sis­ter Ber­ch­mans, with your lovely smile, your white apron and the of­fer “You’ll have a cup of tea, Mrs Lawler” (al­ways the for­mal ad­dress). Stu­art would go to join his friends at another ta­ble and I would have a lit­tle chat with you.

Then it was time to leave and it al­ways broke my heart, even though I knew that Stu­art was so well looked af­ter with such great kind­ness from you and from Sis­ter Mechtilde, who was in charge of the dor­mi­to­ries. At night in bed, Stu­art used to lis­ten to our lo­cal Kil­dare ra­dio, lov­ing es­pe­cially the ads for busi­nesses in Athy as he felt closer to home when hear­ing those fa­mil­iar places.

Off I would go then to start my jour­ney back to Athy, most of the time blinded by tears for the first few miles, but then, when I thought of the al­ter­na­tive of Stu­art be­ing left in a cor­ner at home, I would cop my­self on and re­alise how for­tu­nate we were to have some­one like you, Sis­ter Ber­ch­mans, there ev­ery Mon­day morn­ing.

Thank you for your kind­ness and your un­der­stand­ing. You will be pleased to know that Stu­art is now Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre Man­ager with the Na­tional Coun­cil for the Blind of Ire­land (NCBI) and trav­els all over the world with­out a bother. He was also the first blind stu­dent to study mu­sic at Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Cork and I know this will bring a smile to your face as you of­ten hummed your way around the din­ing room on those Mon­day morn­ings.

Go raibh mile maith agat, dear­est Sis­ter Ber­ch­mans.

Kay Lawler, Co Kil­dare

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