By Suzanne Pender
THE warmth and love in the room was palpable as Kathleen Chada launched her new memoir Everything last Tuesday night in the Lord Bagenal Hotel, Leighlinbridge.
Her beloved boys Eoghan and Ruairi may not have been physically there, but their spirit was everywhere, their beautiful faces beaming from every book, their place in people’s hearts permanent.
“It was incredible … there were about 350 people there and it just meant so much to me,” reflected Kathleen while speaking to The Nationalist.
“People travelled … they came from everywhere. It just all meant so much. At one point, the senior Ballinkillen team came in wearing their jerseys, and this year for the boys’ tenth anniversary instead of the sponsor’s name on the jersey they have ‘Eoghan and Ruairi’ on the back. It’s just incredible because I know how much the GAA and Ballinkillen meant to them, especially Eoghan, and some of that team would have played with Eoghan.”
Kathleen was joined by her mother Patsy Murphy, her sister Irene, her brothers Kevin, Kenneth and Barry, her sister-in-law Sharon, who travelled from Australia, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, cousins and “an awful lot of friends”.
This summer marks the tenth anniversary of when Kathleen’s husband Sanjeev Chada brutally murdered their two sons, Eoghan (10) and Ruairi (5). Everything is a beautiful, personal revisiting of that awful time, but also the story of Kathleen’s life this last decade.
“There is something significant about it being ten years. The book has been there for a while, but I didn’t know what it would be like, or what format it would take,” she explains.
Kathleen was introduced to the book’s editor and publisher Liam Hayes by Angela Doyle Stewart and immediately she felt “in safe hands”.
“From the moment I met him, I felt comfortable. I needed someone I could trust and someone who could pull me up if I needed that. There was also the GAA connection and the fact he is from Carlow; also, he lives in Navan and I had lived in Navan … it was meant to be,” smiles Kathleen.
Kathleen and Liam met a number of times, and three months on from their initial meeting the first draft of Everything was ready.
“It’s my words and I recognise them as my words, but Liam added that magic and together it’s incredible. When I read that first draft, I cried, even from those first few pages when I talk about my grandmother, I realised I come from a long line of very strong women, on both sides really,” says Kathleen.
This first draft needed very little editing. while the style of Everything is not chronological, it’s a reflection of a loving marriage, a happy family, the most unimaginable trauma and the extraordinary story of a woman piecing her life back together, having lost everything.
“I never wanted it to be a cumbersome read; it’s not an easy read, but I hope it’s not too difficult a read and that there is some light in it,” Kathleen says.
“I’m often asked why I campaign and why I push for change, and I hope that the book explains that. This is the why, this is what happened. It’s also something that is very tangible for me and my family. I also hope that it reaches the people it needs to, and people pick up that bit of light they need,” she adds.
It’s clear Kathleen has worked incredibly hard on herself over the past decade. She prides herself on having the courage to take every piece of help offered, adding that she’s “a big believer in reaching out”.
“Every piece of control I had in my life was taken away from me that night and I have fought hard to get that back,” she says.
“I first went to my psychologist five weeks after it happened and he was just the right person at the right time. I was seeing him three times a week at one stage,” she adds.
“I’ve done everything: the yoga, the exercise, the mindfulness – everything – but having a psychologist that deals with trauma, that was so vital,” she says.
“I took the anti-depressants when needed, I booked myself into St Pat’s for five weeks after my dad died because I could feel myself slipping and, luckily enough, I was able to go in there because I’d private health insurance.
“I did what I should do and I discovered that I had a resilience, and I had lost sight of that for a while,” she adds.
The response to Everything has been hugely positive. It’s a tribute to Eoghan and Ruairi, their lives, their place at the heart of a family and their continued part in their community.
“That picture on the cover is my favourite one of the boys. I remember taking it and remember trying to stop them jumping around and messing while I tried to get it,” smiles Kathleen.
“It brings a smile to people’s faces and lets people know that they are still very much with us, they are still part of the community. The comfort and peace that brings me is incredible,” she adds.
Everything (€14.99) is available now in all bookshops.