The walkers were reminded that there’s always hope with this sign outside the Cavan Cathedral on a foggy Saturday morning.

The light always follows the darkness

Darkness Into Light took place in Ireland and all over the world on Saturday night. There were 116,894 entries for the walk, with €3,793,825 raised so far. Of all fundraisers, the main focus of this walk is not the amount of money raised or the number of people who attend. Darkness Into Light (DIL) is more about the people who could not attend due to suicide and letting their families know that they are not alone. It's also about reminding those who suffer with mental health issues that the light always follows the darkness.

The walk in Cavan took place at 4.15am on Saturday morning. Arriving at 4am, the majority of the crowd had already gathered. The carpark at Cavan Institute was filled with chatter, bright yellow t-shirts and hats. People wrote messages to their loved ones in the memorial tent, while others availed of bottles of water handed out several volunteers.

Having completely forgotten to register, I went to a donation bucket to put in my registration money. I was delighted to see the bucket was full, with a slight wait to get to it. Young children attended in buggies decorated with fairy lights, several dogs sported the DIL yellow t-shirt and others wore running gear with the intention of jogging the loop. Everybody was out to support in any way they could.A speech by Fiona Corby, Cavan co-ordinator, preceded the walk, in which people were encouraged to remember loved ones lost to suicide.As Fiona spoke of the empty chair at home, I looked around to several solemn faces and eyes filled with tears. The walk is reflective of the times that led to it. The pain of losing a loved one, the loneliness of the pandemic, and just the hardships of daily life were etched on some of the faces I saw. It was a time to allow people to come together and feel each of these things, as our speaker reminded us that we are never alone and that each of us are loved.As the heart-warming speech concluded, the walk began. Hoards of people made their way through the darkness towards St Pat's College. Although the sky was black, the route certainly was not. Little candles contrasted beautifully against the darkness, illuminating the way for the walkers.

As I climbed the hill leading up to the college, the beautiful voices of the Cavan Rugby Club men’s choir filled the air. This part of the walk, known as the reflective kilometre, is the darkest section of the route - hooded over with trees. Having done the walk for years now, this is my favourite part. It is always decorated so beautifully and this year was no different. Signs of hope, fairy lights and sunshine showed the way with 5,000 lanterns hung with care. Positive affirmations were hung along the route reading ‘you are loved’ and ‘keep looking up… that’s the secret of life x’ among many others.As we left this area of the walk, the first sign of dawn began to show as natural brightness revealed the foggy morning. As we neared the town, it was beautiful to see it emptied of cars and people rushing with shopping trollies. That morning, there were only people walking through at their leisure having a chat with their walking partner.

This is another thing I like about the walk. Rather than trying to hit 10,000 steps for the day or rushing because you are late for work, it was nice to just relax and stroll along with the crowd. This was the case in the group I was in anyway. Nobody was too concerned with how quickly we completed the 5k.

Singing and dancing filled the market square as I admired the energy of the Virginia Gospel Choir. As we neared the end of the walk, a massive ‘HOPE’ sign stood with the backdrop of the Cathedral, which was nearly concealed by the fog.With this, our walk concluded. Having went straight from work that night, we got into the car and I went straight to my bed. Regretfully, we did not head back to Cavan Institute for refreshments, where I believe there were baked goods, tea and coffee for everyone - a chance to catch up and reflect before going home. Hats off to those who stay up for the day but, among all the people I have ever done the walk with, we always go back to sleep with a good feeling that we have done something positive.The best part of it all is later going on the Darkness Into Light Facebook page and looking at all the photos from the walk, trying to find yourself. Seeing all the smiles, tired heads, laughter and togetherness makes getting up worthwhile. The walk was amazing as always and I think everybody involved in making the event a success deserves a huge pat on the back.

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a second year journalism student in University of Limerick.


The Good Life: Opportunity knocks...