It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn

My best friend died three months ago.

That sentence is almost harder to write than her eulogy. The writer in me wants to change the ending, wants to create a happy ever after for her and for her young family, but there’s nothing I can do. Just like there was nothing I could do to heal or fix her. I couldn’t create a weapon to win this war. I couldn’t fight her battle with a pen or dream up a hero to send to her rescue.

Cheryl was a childhood friend, one of a little band of dysfunction that somehow gelled together once upon a time. She was my walking buddy, my listening ear. Always. Aside from my family, she was one of the few constants. No matter where I was in the world, we were in contact, even if we didn’t see each other for months at a time. Phone calls were made from dance floors in Abu Dhabi when ‘our song’ came on. Pictures of her children opening Santa presents arrived when I wasn’t home for christmas. Little loveheart emojis were sent back and forth, out of the blue, just cos.

A few years back, based at home in Leitrim and on a mission to shift the pounds gained from too much of the good life, a walk with Cheryl became part of my daily life. We laughed a lot together. We ranted and fumed. We talked and talked. And we listened. Cheryl listened, even long after the walking phase ended, which it inevitably did. When I country hopped once more, it was just a question of geography. 

Since Cheryl died, I’ve retraced old steps. I’ve gone on lots of our old walks. They were lonely.

Some time after her death, I decided to take a road trip to clear my head. I went to Donegal. I visited another old friend and I took some time to myself on the Wild Atlantic Way.

It was here that I realised everything was going to be ok.



On my last morning in Donegal, I rose early to watch the sunrise over Mount Errigal, then drove along rugged coastline on a mission to climb as much of Sliabh Liag as I could.

Something made me take a break along the way.

I parked at Glencolmcille to take a wander and a few photographs. Cheryl was on my mind and I was filled with an unshakeable sadness. When I set foot on the beach, waves lapped the sand about six or eight feet from where I stood. My thoughts were too tired to continue bothering me. I don’t know how long I stood there. I was eventually jolted from my trance by the sea water soaking my shoes and I realised the tide had come in.


I went back to the car and I drove on, tears flowing, and made my way to Sliabh Liag. My brain didn’t really kick in. I just climbed and climbed, barely conscious that my footwear was not suitable, my clothes were not warm enough and my legs were creaking. I just climbed.

At the top, battered but not beaten, I settled on a rock, whipped by the cold mountain air and sat for a long time. I think I went through all of the stages of grief on that mountain.

Then I said good bye to my best friend.


When I climbed back down and turned for home, I knew that I had left something behind in Donegal, maybe on that beach, or at the top of that mountain. Something that was too heavy for me to carry any more.

And I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to be right away, but I knew that somehow, I would be OK.

29 Comment

  1. Brid says: Reply

    That is just beautiful Ruth, thank u for being such a loyal, very special friend to Cheryl. Wish I had your writing skills. I will treasure this. B

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thanks so much Brid. I miss her loads. Thinking of you all over Christmas and sending lots of love for the year ahead x

  2. Keith says: Reply

    Wow Ruth that actually beutiful.
    I lost my mother 3 years ago and life has never been the same I know what you mean about that first line being so hard to write, im sure youve had those moments where you pick up the phone to call her and then you remember…
    It never really gets any easier losing someone, you just try to get through one day without them and then you do it again and again. I’m so glad you wrote this and that you were able to say goodbye in your own way. I truly feel for you

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thanks so much for the lovely words Keith.
      I’m sorry, I didn’t know you’d lost your Mum. I remember she was very proud of you though!
      Hope you’re doing well

  3. Beth says: Reply

    Such a lovely tribute to your best friend Cheryl. She would have loved this piece. You were both so lucky to have each other for 30 odd years. It’s pretty special to show appreciation at such an early age. Well done. Beth

  4. Cath says: Reply

    Oh goodness I have tears for you, wonderfully written. The Atlantic coast there is a magical place and a lovely place to be able to heal and remember your friend

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thanks Cath. It’s a pretty spectacular part of the world.

  5. Maša says: Reply

    That’s beautiful. Sorry to hear that and sorr for your loss. Great friendship it was and you did nice with that post. <3

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      thanks so much

  6. Such a beautiful tribute to your friend. Something about beautiful landscapes helps to honor special people and experiences in our lives.

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thanks Sandy

  7. What a beautiful tribute to your friend. Saying goodbye in never easy.

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      That’s certainly true. Thanks Janine

  8. This is a wonderful post and tribute to your best friend. Thank you for sharing your grief and your processing. I’m glad the mountains were able to help you attain some peace.

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thanks Alicia

  9. Mel | The Wandering Darlings says: Reply

    Such a beautiful and heartbreaking post. A very lovely tribute to your friend and I’m sure she would be so touched. The way this is written a stunning

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thank you

  10. Jen says: Reply

    Much love to your friend. I’m sure she’s in a better place. The landscapes there seems good for you to contemplate and remember the good times you with your friend

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thanks Jen

  11. kristelle says: Reply

    I’m sorry for your lose. such a touching tribute

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thanks Kristelle

  12. You can feel your pain in this article, sorry about your loss. Being out in the open away from everything is a great way to think. Take care 🙂

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thank you

  13. Lovely blog! Very romantic place!

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      I’m not sure romantic is how I would describe it, but yes, certainly very picturesque

  14. Tribute to your best friend! Very nicely written.

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Thank you

  15. I understand how you feel. I lost my fiance in 2014 and my dad in 2015. It broke my heart so bad that I just wanted to go somewhere far, high and quiet. I don’t even care how tiring a trek will be I just need to be there.

    1. Rambling Ruth says: Reply

      Oh, Gosh, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you’re doing ok now.

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