It’s the evening of Monday week last. The rain is falling in grey sheets outside, while a friend and I were running through the dialogue for a play we both feature in, which begins its week-long run in Carrick-on-Suir this Friday.
Over a cup of tea between script read-throughs, I mentioned I was considering a bit of time out from stage work after this week for at least a year. And I mean at the very least.
There are a few other pies I’ve got fingers in at present, and I think they’ll also need removing for a while. To be frank, I’m running on fumes, and have been for at least six months.
Barely 18 hours after that conversation (having spent a couple of hours running through dialogue after 10 hours in work), Gary Wyse, one of the busiest men I’ve ever known, died at the age of 50. The news shook me to the core.
Gary was one of Waterford’s ultimate ‘doers’. You asked him to do something, you sought his help, he did it and he gave it – and then some.
He was, as was stated in City Hall last Thursday, a true blue. He did the place he grew up in and loved some service, and he had resurrected Fianna Fáil’s brand in Waterford, which history shall surely record as his greatest political achievement.
As the special meeting at City Hall where a vote of sympathy was expressed to Gary’s wife Michelle and his four children, two Councillors told me that Gary had been helping out with a couple of situations in their own electoral wards.
Gary couldn’t gain any additional votes from helping two of his colleagues in such a manner, which only served to further illustrate that he was, in every essence, a true public servant.
He was a thoroughly decent and generous man. And no help he could give was ever enough as far as he was concerned.
“You busy?” he often asked me over a cup of tea in The Granary, something which had become a running joke between us over the past four years. The pot was truly calling the kettle black in that regard.
With his phone chirruping away having received another message, and an appointments book bearing a resemblance to a dam about to burst, I rarely asked him the same question over our half-hour chats. Ask anyone that knew Gary: he was always on the go.
If all of this incredible activity was too much for Gary, then he was an even better actor than he was a human being. Nothing fazed him. Literally nothing.
That I found myself having a conversation about doing too much less than a day before the premature death of a man who did more than I’ll ever know or fully appreciate gave me even further pause for thought.
There’s a lot to be said for generosity – and by that I primarily refer to the giving of time, the greatest gift any of us can ever give another person.
There’s much to be said for putting others’ interests and needs ahead of your own. I’m not in that bracket at all, nor would I ever claim to be, but Gary Wyse certainly was.
His shock passing has stopped me, and a great deal of Waterfordians, in our tracks. And it’s provided me with a wake-up call, one which sometimes only such a tragic and unexpected event can catalyse.
I’ve spent a great deal of the last year or so of my life filling up my time, primarily due to a significant personal adjustment.
Now, virtually all of that time is time I’d consider well spent and rewarding, but would I wish to continue filling up all my time for the next 18 months or more the way I have of late? No. Why? Because I’m going to bed too often these last few months feeling utterly spent, physically and, from time to time, mentally. That’s not living.
Since I was 12 years of age, all I wanted to be was a journalist. And here I am, 22 years later, doing just that and I love it. Maybe a little too much.
But there have been times when journalism and indeed some of my other hobbies have consumed me, at the expense of matters I ought to have prioritised.
That it should take someone’s passing to persuade me to rethink much of my life says more about me than it ever will about the good man buried in Ballygunner last Friday.
Taking a break doesn’t sit well with me. I can’t abide laziness. Never have. Two weeks in the sun has no appeal whatsoever.
But I’ve lived long enough to know people I’ve loved and admired whose quality of life has suffered from being too busy, too giving and in some cases, who’ve sadly gone before their time.
I’ve spent a good deal of the past week asking myself why I’ve allowed myself to become so busy, to leave myself with so little real spare time. To read a book. To listen to an album. To walk in the park. Well, it’s time to apply the brakes a little. It’s time to stop. It’s time to switch off. That’s a facet of life I need to embrace. And I fully intend to.