Róisín Clarke cared for her husband Alan Clarke who sadly passed away from MND in May 2020. This is their story:
"My name is Róisín Clarke, I turn 50 years old in July and I am from Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan. I was raised on a small farm and I am the eldest of eight siblings, four boys and four girls. I am so blessed to have a really fantastic family and to still have both my parents.
I work with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, a job I love. I have been working there since 2001. My work colleagues are like my extended family and I would have truly been lost without their support over the past few years.
I met Alan 27 years ago and we got married on the 6th May 2000. We built a beautiful bungalow and had two beautiful boys Raymond (19) and James (17). Alan was a self-employed electrician. He also had an obsession with cars and machinery. He was always buying and selling them and spent countless hours going to trade shows and auctions. He loved diggers and machinery and he was forever coming home with different parts and scrap material.
First and foremost, Alan was a family man. Sundays were our days. We would go to mass then I would cook a roast or we would go out for dinner. Then there would be a match or away off on a spin somewhere, up the mountains, to the beach for a picnic. Sunday was the only day I saw him in good clothes! Life was a dream.
In March 2016, our world came crashing down. Alan had a strange feeling, a tingling in his arms and legs and he couldn’t warm up his hands. We decided that he needed to see the GP. She reffered him straight away to a neurologist in Beaumont and within a week he was diagnosed with MND. Alan didn’t realise what Motor Neurone Disease was. When he left the neurologist in Beaumont, he rang me from the car on his way home. I was getting ready for work. When he told me, my heart sank and I had shivers down my spine. Alan pulled in off the road and googled it, he was on his own. We were not expecting to receive news like this.
I was waiting for him in the kitchen with the kettle on, we sat at the table and cried. He just said. “Why not me? Families get different news every day of the week”. Over his 4 years with MND, his outlook never changed.
That was the first day of grieving for me. However, we decided there and then that we would have a plan to tackle this. We would pretend that nothing was wrong; we would keep ourselves in a little bubble. Once a month we came out of the bubble for his check-ups in Beaumont Hospital.
Alan was a very practical man. He went to the undertaker and told him his wishes, he visited the solicitor and got his affairs in order. He didn’t want to cause his family any extra stress or worry. He folded up his business. This was heart-breaking for us. Absolutely horrendous. The day he sold his work van, he shuck the man’s hand and wished him the best of luck. Alan was very strong mentally and physically but that was a hard day for him.
From that day on we did as much as we could with the two boys. We went on a Mediterranean cruise while Alan could still walk. We went on weekends away, had picnics, went out for meals and to the movies. We had 2 very good years creating special memories. Then came our old friend the wheelchair. But this didn’t stop us. We bought a wee van and had some great laughs in the middle of pure turmoil.
We had a fantastic MND nurse Eithne. She lightened the mental load for me. I honestly do not know what we would have done without her and the support of the IMNDA. The IMNDA are a fantastic team, they work with the family every step of the way. Nothing is left undone. They work with you at whatever pace you are at. I will never ever forget the conversations with Eithne. The funding for all the equipment and how fast it could be in our home was just unbelievable.
Alan was the love of my life. The love we had, some people don’t experience a week of it. Alan died on our 20th wedding anniversary at 8.20pm in my arms surrounded by his boys, fantastic mother, his two sisters, his extended family and work colleagues. I whispered in his ear that at this time 20 years ago we were having our first dance as Mr and Mrs. A tear rolled down his cheek and he took his last breath. I just said, “Alan, I will see you on the other side”.