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'I hope that she had a sense of how loved she was'

What the death of Dolores O’Riordan can teach us about telling people how we feel.

EARLIER THIS WEEK, the world was rocked by the news of the sudden and untimely death of Dolores O’Riordan.

Her voice provided the soundtrack to a million house parties, moody bus journeys, and disappointing teen discos, capturing the yearning and angst of an entire generation in the process. Her death left those who had come of age with The Cranberries crestfallen.

This was highlighted by the sheer volume of tributes that came her way this week. Music industry heavyweights like Hozier, Duran Duran, Josh Groban, Jared Followhill, Liz Phair, Hayley Williams, and Questlove were among those to publicly mourn her loss.

But there were also tributes from figures as diverse as US women’s soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo, who lamented that she found it ‘so hard to say goodbye to Dolores O’Riordan’; Sex and the City hunk Gilles Marini, who wrote that ‘her songs helped me so much when my father passed away a little younger than she was’; NASCAR driver Dale Earhardt Jr., who tweeted that he ‘rocked @The_Cranberries so much back in the 90s’; and sportswriter extraordinaire Bill Simmons, who describes O’Riordan as ‘one of the most distinctive voices I can remember’.

What’s striking about these tributes is the intensely personal connection people from all walks of life felt to Dolores.

Whether you were a racecar driver at the height of your powers or a French heart-throb coping with the loss of a loved one, Dolores O’Riordan’s voice resonated with you and was on hand to guide you through this rickety rollercoaster we call life.

Turns out there was fierce power in that Limerick lilt.

Closer to home, fans mourned the loss of a voice that was so inextricably linked to a particular time in this country. They listened to Zombie and remembered all the times they caterwauled along to the song’s ‘In your head, in your head’ refrain. They revisited Linger and were reminded of the unrequited crushes of their youth. They put on Dreams and were seduced by its lush otherworldliness all over again.

Dolores O’Riordan was an icon for so many, but did she know precisely the legacy she left behind? On Tuesday morning, Ryan Tubridy wondered aloud if she was aware of just how beloved she was.

I hope that she had a sense of how loved she was. I just think in Ireland we’re rubbish at doing that. They pass and it’s kind of hollow. She’s gone. It’s too late. We knock people, we begrudge, we point, we laugh, we scoff. People are so mean online. They’re just cruel.

I hope that she had a scintilla of a sense of the emotional attachment people seem to have for her in the country. I wonder did she have that sense?

It’s a valid point. We’re a great little country, but we have the capacity to be cruel sometimes.

It’s no secret that O’Riordan had her troubles in recent years, having endured a marriage break-up and severe mental illness. During this time, the Irish media ran with sensationalist headlines about her ‘demons’ and personal difficulties.

“Fears for Dolores O’Riordan: Ex-Voice coach sung in cell for THREE hours after air rage arrest” “‘I’m queen of Limerick’ – O’Riordan in air rage row” “Why Dolores it always rain on me? Singer looks glum on country walk in downpour day after her new love was revealed”

Rather than demonstrating compassion for a woman at her lowest ebb, we were invited to feast on details of her personal life like hungry vultures. It was all rather uncharitable and a regrettable way to treat one of our own, particularly someone who had given so much of herself to us through her music.

Perhaps there’s a lesson in it, though.

Let’s not revel in people’s misfortunes. Let us be kinder. Let us have more empathy. Let’s not hold back on telling the people we love that we love them.

On the evening of Dolores’ passing, a host of musical luminaries took to the stage of the National Concert Hall to honour Shane McGowan on the occasion of his 60th birthday. It was a beautiful thing and something we should strive to do more.

After all, what is the use in waiting until someone has died to express our appreciation? We should do it while they’re still with us and able to experience the warmth that comes with being told, “You mean a lot to me. You are loved.”

With all that said…

We loved you, Dolores. Thank you for making music that invited us to feel all our feelings. Thank you for proving that you can conquer the world in your own accent. Thank you for being a feisty, ferocious and unapologetically feminine rock star. And most of all, thank you for allowing us to butcher your songs in karaoke bars.

We’ll never be a patch on you, but God knows we’ll keep trying.

Rest easy.

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