“Mammy, why is everyone so sad?” – A vigil for Savita Halappanavar

Michaela Deane

“Mammy, why is everyone so sad?”

“Because Savita died five years ago. The doctor’s weren’t allowed to save her.”

Limerick Voice‘s reporter Michaela Deane went along to a vigil which took place for Savita Halappanavar at the end of Thomas Street.

It’s like the universe knows the depths of despair that the 28th of October brings to so many people in Ireland.

A heavy grey sky looms above us, no sunshine, no hint of light, just darkness. A misty drizzle falls almost constantly, a reminder that something is not right; and we don’t know when it will be.

Photo: Karen Sugrue

Photo: Karen Sugrue

Fifty-four candles spell out Savita’s name; electronic so that they will not be quenched by the dull and dreary atmosphere surrounding us. A framed photograph of the smiling woman whose life was taken too soon is perched on the windowsill above.

Just 31 years old when she died, she had so much more to give and Ireland’s Eighth Amendment snatched those lost opportunities away from her.

Those who attend the vigil have brought flowers, and white roses are scattered all over the floor, surrounding her name. Their quiet beauty is a gesture of remembrance, a perfect way to say “I’m thinking of you”. I’m sure a lot of people are thinking about Savita and her family today.

A family step forward to lay down some orange roses. One. Two. Three. I look around and scan the crowd, there’s a variety of faces beside me. An elderly woman, clutching a black and white photograph of Savita tightly to her chest.

A woman in her 30’s who’s struggling with a baby that couldn’t be more than six months old, looking slightly lost and forlorn. Students in REPEAL jumpers and badges, wearing all black and standing together in solidarity.

A couple who almost miss the vigil, before stopping together for a minute and holding hands. What is that look on their faces? Loss, disappointment, shame for our country?

Photo: Michaela Deane

Photo: Michaela Deane

I examine the immediate reactions of people passing by, they’re furrowing their brows and trying to read the piece of writing framed beside Savita’s face: “In solidarity with those who have been directly and negatively affected by the 8th Amendment.”

Some see the vigil and keep walking, some stop for a moment. Either way, it’s hard to avoid.

The young child who asked her mother why everyone was so sad is probably about four or five years old. This means she would have been born around the time that Savita died, or soon after. She’s too young to understand, but her mother explained it to her in simple terms; it’s not safe to be a pregnant person in Ireland.

Photo: Michaela Deane

Photo: Michaela Deane

She picks a candle up off the floor, and asks her mother if Savita is inside it. She takes some flowers up off the floor, and gently places them down again. Up, and then down again.

Her innocent smile would light up anyone’s heart. She doesn’t know it yet, but we’re fighting for change, for her. We need a safer Ireland for people who can get pregnant in years to come.

Photo: Michaela Deane

Photo: Michaela Deane

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