I am in awe of the internet and mobile technology and the evolution of smart phones and smart devices which have become the norm in modern day life. With the growth of social media, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Skype to name but a few, it is possible to be in almost permanent contact with a member of your family or a friend who is living thousands of miles away. Social media has been a blessing for families of those who have emigrated but there is also a downside.
One Irish Mammy said, that while she was regularly able to see her grandchildren on the PC through the internet, “you can’t hug Skype”. Social media has allowed people to be close to loved ones at difficult times and now, because of webcams in churches, you can attend a funeral in many parts of Ireland from as far away as Sydney or Boston.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I follow some crochet pages on Facebook and during one of the discussions a woman spoke of her heartache of being away from Ireland. She was an Irish lady who had emigrated to Canada in her early
20’s, married there and settled down and had a family. She had reared her children and now had several grandchildren. She has now come to a point in her life where her family were up and gone and didn’t
really need her anymore, leaving her sad and bitter. Even though she had been away from Ireland for 40 years she regretted ever having left. She had little hope of returning at this stage because things had changed so much in Ireland and in any case she wanted to be near her grandchildren in Canada. She felt she belonged nowhere. My heart went out to her and later I tried to reconnect with her but I was unable to do so. I have thought of her often and all the thousands who are probably in the same boat as her stuck between two countries, between two lives.  My eldest sister is in a similar situation; she moved to Scotland to work, met her husband and got married, reared a family and now has grandchildren. Even though Scotland is not too far away there is an ocean dividing us and half of her heart is in Ireland and the other half is in Scotland.

There is a word I love which is used in Wales it is called a Cwtch pronounced Kutch. A Cwtch does not have a literal English translation but in Welsh it is a snuggle, cuddle or hug which can bring you back to the safety and comfort of your childhood. This links into its other definition, a place to safely store things, which is really the same thing when you think about it. When my sister arrives at Dublin airport and comes through those arrival gates we share the mother and father of a Cwtch which lasts about five
minutes. While she loves to be back home and enjoys spending time with us, after a few days she is missing her own family and needs to get back to them. She is torn between two lives.

Technology is moving at a rapid and somewhat frightening pace. When I get into my car after work it can tell me almost to the minute what time I should expect to arrive home. If I head west it reconfigures
and tells me what time I will arrive in Sligo, taking into account the traffic and the odd auld tractor plodding along in the middle of the road at 40km an hour. One of the more recent technologies is Haptic
technology which simulates the sense of touch and is used in medical and flight simulators and has been used in gaming for some time. In Japan teams of scientists are working on a harness that can simulate a real hug. It is still in the development stage but looks promising. I wonder what the Irish Mammy will make of that.

Bernie Martin, ICPO Maynooth

Irish Chaplaincy

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