Death in the country

Our son, Seán, was buried yesterday. We are told that it was the largest funeral in the parish in living memory. A guard of honour was provided by my daughter’s (and Sean’s former) school. The choir sang … I had picked the hymns. A rugby ball, his camera and a Bob Marley poster were brought up to the altar to represent his interests. After communion, I addressed the congregation briefly to thank everyone for their marvellous support and to tell Sean’s friends that my wife and I care about them, and that they will always be welcome in our house.

His coffin was carried across the road to the cemetery, where men from our road had dug his grave by hand … a local tradition. After the formalities, Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ was played on an iPod or some such, as we had requested. We and his friends sang along with Bob, and cried. A long queue formed for people to offer us their sympathy. I have never been hugged so much in my life.

Everyone went to the local pub, where tables had been laid out and soup, sandwiches, cake, tea, coffee, etc. were laid on. I had a few beers for the first time since Sean’s death, and spoke to many people who had travelled from all over the country and farther afield. His friends told funny stories about Sean, and so did we.

Ever since the news first started to spread on Sunday, the help, support and sheer love we have received from our community have been phenomenal. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have passed through our house to pay their respects. Everything was taken care of … the dogs were taken away and minded (we got them back today); traffic was directed on the road, proper signage erected and parking and lighting provided in the adjacent field; a team of people served tea, coffee, soup, sandwiches, cake, salads and hot meals virtually around the clock. My black shoes (actually Sean’s) were taken away, polished and brought back.

We know now that when we moved out of Dublin 12 years ago, we came to the right place.

One story about Sean from a friend who considers him a brother … Sean was staying at the friend’s house in Roscommon when there was snow on the ground. Around midnight or later they went out in the garden and built a snowman. The friend’s little sister started a snowball fight with Sean, and Sean was laughing so loudly that he woke up all the neighbours. Lights started to be turned on in the houses all around, and neighbours went out into their gardens and built snowmen too.



Filed under Death, Ireland

22 responses to “Death in the country

  1. papaguinea

    My son’s favourite story is “The Christmas Snowman”. Whenever I read this to him from now on I shall remember your son, his antics, his joy and his life. How wonderful to read of the. depth of support and feeling from the community. That in itself much bring you much comfort and I am sure will be sustaining. I have been to a wedding in Knockvicar, Boyle, and I can feel the pulse of what you write, when you touch upon the community spirit. You are a young man Brendano, and your wife too; be bold and fearless in your emotions. One day I may share a pint with you; it would be a good day.

  2. I’d love to have a drink with you sometime, pg. I remember that you mentioned the Knockvicar wedding before. The incident I mention here occurred near Rooskey.

    I’ve long admired your positive, tolerant attitude and identified with your love of music. I know as well that you understand what the best of Ireland is about.

    You and your wife and little son have my warmest good wishes.

  3. Nobby

    A while ago Brendan you wrote about Sean and his willingness to take on Swindon. I once played for Swindon Boys in a match against my own regular side in Oxford about twenty years ago. Swindon are good but one player can make a difference to a result and I am sure his effort would have surpassed mine. Your courage in facing this tragedy head-on speaks volumes about the love in your heart and family.

  4. Brendan, the last message of yours is blank. I am guessing a photograph that did not come out properly. Grave digging, yes, a tradition that the family does not dig the grave but the neighbours do.

  5. jaimeatdnmyt

    I’m afraid words fail me in these situations, but I am glad you have so much support and caring from the community. The Redemption song is very beautiful in Marley’s voice, and transcendent in the light of such loss.
    As always, my very best wishes for you and your family,

  6. Ike Jakson

    I pray that you will find peace soon and that you will always be guided by the blessings of having had your son. Stay with God.

  7. Thank you, Nobby, Ron, Jaime, Ike. Very kind words and much appreciated.

    Sean’s Facebook page and others are flooded with messages from many, many friends, all saying how much they love him. An example:

    RIP Sean O’Brien, a true friend to all who knew him and who always had a smile for everyone even if they didn’t. A man who had an infinite capacity to forgive and forget and always looked on the bright side of life. You will be sorely missed by so many people.

  8. Sounds like you are surrounded by genuine, caring people and I hope they will continue to look out for you during the difficult months and years ahead. Sean will live on in the memories of everyone who knew him. It will feel good to have his friends around to talk and remember, play music and laugh. They will need it too.

  9. Bilby

    Your post warms my heart, Brendan. I am so glad you have so much support from friends and neighbours. Funerals are so important. I hope the memory of yesterday, a celebration of Sean’s vibrant life and the love he gave and received, will help you to deal with his loss.

    Still thinking of you, your wife, your daughter and all who love and care about Sean.

  10. Wept my way through your post. The funeral sounds wonderful. Now comes the hardest part.
    Keep telling his stories when you can.
    I may not have known him, but I would like to know more of him. A good life has a positive ripple in the world. And it sounds as though the repercussions of Sean’s actions and friendships will continue to be felt.

  11. Thank you, Jan, Bilby and Isobel.

    An old acquaintance rang this morning and said she was shocked at the news. She had spoken to Sean at the Fleadh, when he was working in a pub. ‘He was so beautiful’, she said. That word crops up a lot.

    Yesterday I was talking to some of his friends about playing pool with him in the local bar on his 18th birthday. They said they hadn’t known I liked to play pool, and they would organize a night when they, my wife, my daughter and I could have a few games of pool and a few drinks, and talk about Sean.

    Many have changed their Facebook avatars to photos of Sean; some asked our blessing for tattoos (we advised caution). He certainly won’t be forgotten.

    Sean, uncharacteristically, had two pints of Smithwick’s (ale) with his friends on Friday night (he usually drank cider). A large group of his friends met up on Sunday night in the local, and they all drank a pint of Smithwick’s in his memory.

    And so it goes.

  12. Cymbeline

    Requiescat in pace, Sean.

  13. Pseu

    I have been reading all these posts, Brendano. It all seems so sudden, the funeral so quickly after his death. I hope you are finding time for yourself.

  14. Squid

    I’m so glad you find yourself able to write about these events, B. It is a privilege to share them at second-hand; and I hope that recording them fresh will both help you endure the unendurable, and help keep your image of all the details sharp and clear for the future.

    Even though it seems impossible now, time rubs away at our memories even as it eases our pain, but I’m sure you will never want to lose a single detail of your beloved son. Severe shock is often followed by a kind of delayed amnesia, and sometimes a reluctance to revisit the details traumatic times, but I believe you and your family will want to remind yourselves of this sometime in the future as a part of the memories you cherish of Sean’s life.

    I’m so glad that your friends and neighbours have been so supportive. Those of us who know you only in the virtual world feel rather helpless but we are here for you, too, if we can be of service.

    My best wishes to you, and to your wife and daughter.

  15. Rainer the cabbie

    Brendano, my cyber mate. 🙂

    I understand your pain, having lost my mum at age ten.
    Nothing is as final as death.

    In life you can get sick, and then get better. You lose a lover, then find another. You go down in a trough, then life will lift you up again. Lose a job, find another. The merrygoaround of life is endless, there is always something around the corner, something that will replace what is lost.

    Death is not like that. Once it is gone, its gone, and the void created seems to be unifiable. And it is.

    But lets think about what happens in death. The misery that it creates is with the people left behind. The sadness, the sorrow, the irreplaceable loss.
    So is the terrible side of death the feeling of self pity?
    Are we mourning the loss of a loved one or are we more concentrated on the way we feel?

    This is not meant to be crude in any way, my friend.

    Let me explain what death means to me. I don’t believe in any of the religious doctrines, Heaven and Hell, judgement, all that stuff is made up by human beings.
    God? Why would this loving being take your son, in the prime of his life, with so much to live for?
    Doesn’t make much sense to me.

    So this whole death experience is unexplainable.

    What I believe is that we come down as energy, live a life, and when this life ends it is our time. Simple as that.
    Now the beauty of this is that your sons life may be over, but his energy, his SPIRIT, is still very much alive, going to wherever we all go in the end.

    Brendan, cherish the time you had with Sean in your life, the time and love you shared, and feel enlightened that your lives have met and interacted.

    There is nothing else that I can say to you, feeling your pain on a personal level, but please let go of the pain and appreciate what you had together, in the full knowledge that you will meet again.
    Wherever that will be is not for me, or anybody, to specify, but it will happen.

    Peace to you and your family.

    • Rainer,

      With much respect, I have refrained to speak out my true feelings from the beginning not to sound preaching.

      I believe we all have the conscience planted in us about the endless life. We just deny it , or try to alter it to things like you do.

      About making sense, it does. But it can’t be told in a few sentences. If you like I can send you something.

  16. Thanks, Rainer. I certainly hope that he and I will meet again.

    Thank you, Levent. You’re welcome to post your ideas about death here if you wish.

  17. Rainer the cabbie

    Thank you Levent, I appreciate your comment.

    I think where we disagree is the notion of a God and religion.
    Where we do agree is that all of us believe that there must be something else. Religion has tried to put this into some sort of conent, but what is scripture but something written by man?
    History is altered and currupted the moment it happens, and then written down by someone as the truth.
    Religion is history and that is why I don’t respect it.
    What I do respect is something so big and large, call it universal energy, that rules life.
    By no means do I mean to be disrepectful to you or your beliefs. If it makes sence, good for you.
    What I tried to comunicate is that death in itself is not the big tradgedy that we percieve, or feel it to be. It is universal law, things are created, and things die.
    Wherever Sean and his spirit went is not for me, you, or anybody else to know.
    So why are we speculating, or insisting, that we know something we are not informed about?
    What I tried to tell Brendano is not to be too sad as his son has gone on to where we all will go.
    To you this may be heaven, to me it is a grid of life.
    Please don’t send me anything Levent, we are talking about the same thing, but yours has rules to it I can’t appreciate.

    Good to see you well. 🙂

  18. Metin YILMAZ

    Rest in Peace Sean..And wish to you endless Patient Brendano.

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