The Rose of Tralee may have some faults, but the women who take part are the heart and soul of it. Thus, this IMAGE writer explains why it is something to be cherished and how the Donegal Rose delivered a message we should hold onto.
Say what you want about the Rose of Tralee, but to me, it has always been a celebration of women.
I never cringe watching it. I have sat through all the awkward moments and all the dodgy jokes and only ever felt in awe of the women on stage. Every August, without fail, I would explain in bad dramatics to my mother how I wanted to be a rose.
They seemed so powerful, so self-assured yet self-effacing at the same time. Every single one of them deserved to stand underneath the glittering lights of the dome.
However, there will always be one who will stand out and make you realise that occasions like this are important, and the messaging behind it even more so. Last year we were blessed with two truly diverse, dynamic and utterly modern women in the form of the eventual winner, Kirsten Kate Maher, and the Carlow Rose, Shauna Rae Lacey. Both had stories to tell and did so with grace and dignity.
This year it was the Donegal Rose who spoke to the nation and delivered a message worth remembering.
Donegal Rose Chloe Kennedy is only 20-years old but has experienced and seen the cruelties life can throw at you. Last September, she was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma while studying psychology in Maynooth. She finished twelve sessions of chemotherapy in April and thankfully was given the all-clear.
— RTÉ One (@RTEOne) August 27, 2019
It wasn't the ins and outs of her cancer journey that defined her presence in the Dome, it was her attitude. She was selfless as she spoke. She told Daithi how she worried more about how it would affect her family than how the devastating news would impact her saying: "I felt worse for my parents having to break that news. It was harder seeing what it did to other people because I knew we could get through it. We are a strong family."
"I found the strength within myself which I never really knew I had."
And there is that word – strength. A quiet tenacity and something which women as creatures are experts at exhibiting in the most crucial of moments. When the world may fall apart around a woman, she will find the power and courage to make it through. Chloe was the epitome of this idea.
Her positivity seems boundless. She spoke of how after every bad day she would always try and have a good day after. When describing her experience with chemotherapy, her youthfulness appeared.
Throughout the conversation, it was easy to forget just how young she is. She happily told the audience of how when a good week came in between rounds of chemotherapy she would return to visit friends in college and go on the 'sesh', just like any other student.
Chloe showed that even in the most tragic of times, it's important to remember who you are and cling onto those moments of light.
It was fitting that Majella O'Donnell sent in a video praising the Donegal native. When Chloe was faced with the prospect of losing her hair, she watched a video of Majella shaving hers during her treatment and it acted as a source of inspiration and guidance on her journey.
Two women, decades apart, but tethered together through a shared experience.
In the face of adversity, Chloe remained clear in her belief that everything would be OK – and it so beautifully was.
Then there was London Rose Laura Kennedy who spoke about the death of her own baby brother to cancer. It was honest and eloquent and heartbreaking. But she took this heartbreak and used it as a source of good and now works as an advocate for the Make A Wish foundation.
Finally, there was the Limerick Rose Sinead Flanagan who was the eventual winner. She is a junior doctor and hopes to specialise in infectious diseases and will dedicate her life to helping others through her job.
Onlookers are quick to judge the Rose of Tralee and look at it as an outdated and fickle contest, but when you see these women tell of their pain to better the lives of others or commit their lives to that – it's difficult to find fault.
Roses in bloom
Women are astonishing and wonderful creatures. Through sorrow and hardship, we try as best we can to make good with a tenderness only we can create. We smile through the pain and put others before ourselves because we protect and nurture; that is what we do.
The Rose of Tralee may have some faults but it is far from archaic. The stories these Roses will have touched many, young and old. We all can relate or at least feel with them.
From the many stories which were shared over the past two nights, there was one lesson which we should hold close. This message is that life is precious. Make the most of it. Through those tough times believe that someday the rain will stop falling, the clouds will clear and the sun will shine through.
And then, a rose might just bloom.
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