I read a piece in the Irish Times this morning about Grace Farrell an Irish woman in her thirties who froze to death in a doorway in New York City. In this poignant piece, aimed at understanding why, Michael Kealy takes us on a journey through Grace’s life with insights from family and friends, including Emmanuel Touhey who shared his childhood with Grace at the Daughters of Charity Children’s Home in Drogheda, Ireland.
Lest we prejudge Grace’s demise as an inevitable consequence of a life begun in a children’s home, Kealy sensitively juxtaposes Grace’s fate with the success of Emmanuel, a journalist in Washington at C-Span, the Cable-Satelite Public Affairs Network.
I hadn’t heard of Grace’s death before today. Something that surprised me since Ireland tends to report on tragedies involving Irish citizens abroad. I assumed that her plight initially went under the radar because such deaths are commonplace in New York City. However, a quick search for statistics revealed that just 6 deaths were recorded due to exposure to excessive natural cold for the year preceding Grace’s death (Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Bureau of Vital Statistics Fifth Annual Report on Homeless Deaths in New York City July 2009 – June 2010).
Six deaths from hypothermia is, of course 6 too many. I use the word ‘just’ only to qualify that the number is less than I had imagined for a metropolis. Each and every life lost in this way is a tragic indictment of society.
Grace throughout her life had the love of friends and family. She went on to have a son and had a place to live but her personal journey took her to her death in the doorway of a church on a cold February night in 2011. Kealy’s well-written, insightful piece offers several perspectives on Grace’s life and death from people whose lives intersected with hers including Fr Patrick Moloney. The words of this Catholic priest angered me so much that I tweeted about it this morning.
My tweet included a screenshot of the following paragraphs from Kealy’s Irish Times piece in my tweet.
Derek Walsh’s response to my tweet negates the need for me to say anything more.
Grace Farrell – RIP
Michael Kealy is a producer with RTÉ. Documentary On One – Grace & Emmanuel is on RTÉ Radio 1 at 1pm on Saturday July 18th 2015