Simon Fitzmaurice was a Greystones based Irish filmmaker who died a few short weeks ago on 26th October 2017 having battled motor neurone disease for almost ten years. Simon’s 2014 memoir ‘It’s Not Yet Dark’ tells the story of his diagnosis and how the disease progressed and impacted on him and his young family. Despite being completely paralysed Simon went on to direct his first feature film ‘My Name is Emily’ during his illness. Tríona Doherty, wrote the following reflection on today’s gospel before Simon’s passing last month but its message and the challenge she presents remains a powerful one for all of us. If you are looking for a Christmas gift for someone close to you, or simply want to treat yourself, I wholeheartedly recommend Ruth Fitzmaurice’s recently published book ‘I Found my Tribe.’ It is a truly inspiring read! Fr Seán
Ruth Fitzmaurice was 32 years old when her husband Simon was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2008. He was given four years to live; two years later his lung function collapsed and he chose to be mechanically ventilated. He communicates using an ‘eye gaze’ computer, and their home is a whirlwind of 24-hour nursing care – as well as buckets of joy and love. The family of five has grown to seven since the diagnosis, Simon directed his first feature film, and Ruth has found solace in a daily sea swim with friends near their County Wicklow home while also writing a book, I Found My Tribe, about her experiences.
It is more than some individuals or families have to cope with in a lifetime, but the story Ruth tells is not a sad one. She and her family have taken a challenging situation and turned it into a positive story of love, friendship and hope. Ruth and Simon came to mind when I read the gospel story for today. We are all dealt different cards in life, and some are tougher than others. We are like the servants in the parable who are given different amounts of money to look after. What’s important is not the life we are given, but what we do with it. Jesus was cautioning against playing it safe. The Fitzmaurice family are doing a lot more than just ‘getting on with it’. Instead of turning inwards or living in fear, they meet their challenges head on. ‘Dive in’ is Ruth’s message, no matter what life throws your way.