Editor's Note: Dr. Suzanne McClean is a Counselling Psychologist based in Co Galway. Dr. McClean shared her letter with IrishCentral on February 27 and has given permission for it to be printed here.

Dear Mr President Biden,

I’m remembering your four day visit to Ireland last April and how thousands of us turned out in the Irish rain to welcome you to your ancestral home. We smiled widely for your distant relatives as you visited their villages and towns in celebration of your shared predecessors, who set sail for New York in the mid-1800s.

Your visit coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and you spoke to us about the importance of nurturing peace. Peace, after decades of sectarian violence on an island which saw the deaths of approximately 3,500 people during ‘the troubles’ from 1969 to 1998. It is estimated that 1,800 of those who died during those 29 years were civilians. 

As I write this letter to you, nearly 30,000 Palestinian civilians have lost their lives in the past 143 days. Two thirds of these civilians are said to be women and children. Thousands more have been injured and the majority of the population of Gaza has been displaced. Their homes, schools, hospitals and communities have been destroyed and their beloved land has been demolished. Even the dead, in their burial sites, have not been spared.

Though the thing is, Mr. President, you already know this.

As seen, in real time, on the social media screens of those of us who refuse to look away, many of these civilians have died in ways that have forced us to change the way we look at the world. We have witnessed young children’s organs spilling out of their broken torsos. Their limbs detached from their small, shaking bodies. Their traumatised eyes no longer able to produce tears.

Furthermore, we have come to understand that there are many people, including democratically elected world leaders, who have the capacity to justify or turn away from the pained and petrified screams of multiple children having their limbs amputated and their skin stitched without medical anaesthetic.

All of it, Mr. President, without any meaningful condemnation.

I am not writing to you to dispute the fact that the horrors of October 7th were anything short of barbaric. I’m remembering the anguished cries of Noa Argamani, from the back of her kidnapper’s motorcycle, and those of her father pleading for her return. Like many decent human beings around the world, I am deeply saddened by the horrendous plight of the Israeli hostages and I am so very sorry for the young lives that were viciously stolen at a peace-themed music festival they were attending, just miles from the border of Gaza. I cannot fathom the pain these families are enduring. To grieve like this must be to barely exist in a private hell too atrocious for words.

We can quarrel about the root causes of this brutal, ferocious attack until the cows come home. Still, the word equivalence springs to mind. 

I am no historian or politician and I’m certainly no expert on matters of the Middle East. Nor do I fully understand the financial or other marriages that exist among super-powerful countries. Nonetheless, I am learning.

I am listening to the measured voices of Jewish Holocaust descendants such as Katie Bogen and the renowned Dr. Gabor Maté and his sons Daniel and Aaron Maté. I am also listening to other prominent voices such as Michael Rapaport, IDF soldier Rudy Rochman, Hananya Naftali, and Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Moreover, I am tuning into Gazan, on-the-ground journalists like Bisan Owda and Motaz Azaiza and I am trying. I am desperately trying to understand and accept that there are often many complicated versions of what constitutes truth.

Still, Mr. President, it comes back to this.

There is simply nothing complicated about not killing children. There is nothing complicated about not indiscriminately firing bombs and white phosphorus in a manner that is likely to burn, maim, blind or murder even one child, let alone thousands upon thousands.

You see, Mr. President, just like the Palestinian parents wailing over the bodies of their deceased children, I have wailed over the body of mine.

After the sudden and unexpected death of my little girl, the colour of my world irreversibly changed shade and a heaviness took occupation in my chest. Some days still, I wake with wet eyes, whispering her name quietly, as I imagine her hurrying away from me, once again, into the morning light, before my living children wake for breakfast. 

I talk aloud to her when I’m driving alone, as though she’s seated in the back of my car, her dark curls thicker and longer than when I last held her in my arms. Often, when nobody can hear me, I scream her name as loudly as my lungs will allow and I burrow my nails into my skull in the hope that the heartache will give way. It’s in these moments that I recognise, unmistakably, how the trauma of her passing will never leave me alone.

I suppose I long for her always, even when I’m laughing.

My daughter’s death was unpreventable and unpredictable. She died in the loving comfort of her warm bed, with a gentle April breeze blowing outside her bedroom window. There was no search for her remains under the rubble of our home. Her head did not detach from her body because her small spine was unable to withstand the clout of an explosive. Nor was she blinded or disfigured by shrapnel. Her small lifeless form did not resemble a piece of charcoal, burned beyond recognition and it didn’t tremble silently in shock as frantic medics tried desperately, without appropriate medical supports, to reattach her body parts.

If I am permitted to bring my shadow into the light here, it is with horror that I admit, I do not know what sort of terrorist I would have become had any of these realities been a part of my daughter’s story. Even if I’d been afforded some sort of letter from the sky advising me to displace my family in advance of her killing.

I cannot put her sweet name to this letter because I cannot darken it with the same ink that describes what is happening to the children of Gaza. Yet her life was of no greater value than any of theirs. Each one of those thousands upon thousands of deceased Palestinian children were loved, the way my child was loved. And with all due respect, Mr. President, the way you have loved yours.

It is surely a sign of the times, your time as President of the United States, that deceased parents like you and I might experience an unspoken, rickety sense of gratitude. Gratitude that our children were laid to a peaceful rest and that their fragmented remains were not partially devoured by once domesticated cats or dogs, while soldiers laughed and danced in celebration of their demise.

While no military organisation can ever be all good, we have seen evidence of undiluted evil and it is my hope, Mr. President, that at the very least, you will not deny what we have witnessed with our own eyes.

We are marching in our millions in the hope that you and our own leaders will take a proactive and meaningful stance against this disparate and seemingly unending collective punishment of an entire people. It does not feel like a fair war, Mr. President, but rather an attempted annihilation of the Palestinian population. Whether we choose to use the term genocide, or not, these horrors are unfolding before our eyes. And on your watch, for want of a better term.

For 143 days, we have listened to claims that Hamas terrorists are hiding behind human shields, in makeshift tunnels under hospitals where premature babies have had their oxygen turned off. Perhaps though, you might agree that if these same terrorists were hiding in a New York or Tel Aviv hospital, or even here in your beloved Ireland, it would be ludicrous and nothing short of abhorrent to haphazardly drop bombs on these buildings, in the hope of hitting the bad guys in the basement.

Mr. President, I offer my sincerest condolences to you for the timeless losses you have suffered, of not one, but two beloved children. Today, on my 50th birthday, I appeal to you from one bereaved parent to another. From a loss mother who understands what it feels like to walk this world with one foot already in the next. As the Israeli army continues to assault the ‘safe zone’ that is Rafah, I beg you to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire, as a primary and necessary step to whatever might happen next. Please use your power to endeavour to save the lives of the many more children who will die if not for your voice.

How I remember the desolate and inconsolable feeling of kissing my child’s cold cheek for the very last time.

Respectfully, I am sure you do too. 

Sincerely, Dr. Suzanne McClean

You can follow Dr. McClean on Instagram: @flat.lemonade.