Broadcaster and journalist Charlie Bird has described how the kindness and friendship shown to him by “complete strangers” over the past 16 months have helped him overcome his fear of death.
The former RTÉ chief news correspondent, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2021, is one of more than 70 contributors to a collection of writings, Finding Hope, compiled by Sr Stanislaus Kennedy. Among other contributors are Tánaiste Micheal Martin, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, novelist Joseph O’Connor and the Dalai Lama.
Sr Stan, who has dedicated the book to Mr Bird, said at its launch on Tuesday that he had been “one of the first people” she thought of when considering who to ask.
“He represents hope and courage,” she said. “A man who has given his life to service, over years, a journalist, a campaigner, absolutely active – and then to be struck with what is a very serious disease and a terminal one, having accepted with such courage and hope. You are marvellous.”
In his piece, entitled Friendship, Mr Bird writes: “In the last six months, I have received well over a thousand letters and cards from complete strangers from all over Ireland, and these amazing gestures have been so uplifting for me. I have made no secret of the fact I am not a deeply religious person, but the hundreds of Mass cards I have received – and, yes, rosary beads too – I accept in the spirit they have been sent to me.”
From the bottom of my heart, you are guiding me, and in a way I am not afraid to die now
Speaking through a voice-production app at the small event in Dublin, Mr Bird said the last 16 months “have been difficult”, but “there have been moments where there has been a spirit guiding me”.
“With Stan today, I am with another guiding spirit. So, from the bottom of my heart, you are guiding me, and in a way I am not afraid to die now,” he said, addressing her.
Sr Stan said she hoped the book would help people at a time when “a lot of people say there isn’t much hope”.
“I felt there was a real sense of hopelessness among people, and I thought one way of restoring hope is to get people to write about where they find hope. [The pieces] are written with great honesty.”
Among the things that contributors identified as giving them hope were: their garden (broadcaster Aine Lawlor), sea-swimming (Labour leader Ivana Bacik) and “the little girl in me” (human trafficking survivor Adanni Adams).
Finding Hope is published by Columba Books.