[Some early thoughts on Sean and his death … perhaps a bit sentimental, but it’s how I feel.]
The leaves of the Norway maple were turning yellow,
My dry-stone wall was in partial collapse
From all the footballs we had kicked against it;
The lawn was unmown; the mower needed fixing;
The fields were full of pheasants, the weather warm and dry;
You were nineteen years old; I was fifty.
It was the last day of your life, Sean,
But we didn’t know that yet.
Your mum and Susi were in Italy;
You and Clio walked the dogs
And laughed at Tango’s antics;
The three of us went to the Pumpkin Festival office
And bought tickets for the Fancy Dress Ball
And Imelda May; you noticed a candle-holder
Of stained glass that your mother made.
The day was bright and sunny as
Clio caught the bus to go to work,
And we visited the bakery
For a loaf, a Bakewell and a brownie;
Then I drove you home.
Munster beat Toulon in Limerick, 45–18
(You loved Munster deeply; their spirit was like yours);
Leinster beat Saracens at Wembley, 25–23;
We sat in front of the fire with the dogs
And talked about the players;
We were annoyed with Mafi and Tuitupou
For letting down their team-mates;
We praised Stringer, Murphy, Buckley
And your Leinster namesake, Sean O’Brien.
You texted Clio with score updates
And sad or smiley faces;
We were relieved that Leinster did not concede
A late penalty.
We spoke to your mum, who was having a great time
With Susanna and Anna in Lucca;
We halved and ate the Piccolina cakes (one for each match);
We ate the spaghetti bolognaise
I had cooked for you and Clio the night before;
I and the dogs finished yours, as was often the way.
We drank tea and watched some football
(Dull after the rugby, you said … Arsenal won)
And spent time on the computers,
My chair bumping into yours
In the cramped office;
You listened to Bob Marley
And played your FIFA football game
(Racing Santander had been your team for ages);
You chatted with your friends.
It had been a good day
As the clock crossed midnight
And I said goodnight to you
Who had been born just before midnight.
We did not clasp hands
As we had done a thousand times,
As we had done earlier for some of the tries.
We did not embrace
(As we had done a thousand times);
We did not stand and shout (as we had done earlier)
When you turned and said goodnight to me
While you sat at the computer
Where I found you
In your black hoodie, grey tracksuit bottoms, Guinness slippers.
I did not say I loved you,
You did not say you loved me,
But we had told each other often before
And we both knew – didn’t we, Sean?
While I was falling asleep
You were leaving this world we shared
And would not be coming back.
Sean, I loved your voice;
I loved your changing face
That I had seen a million times;
I loved your eyes and your laugh;
I loved your name (the same as my father’s);
I loved it when you spoke to me;
I loved to see you being born;
I loved you as a baby;
I loved to watch you play rugby
Or play with the dogs;
I loved your long spin-pass;
I loved you as you loved life;
I was very proud of you, Sean.
You would say, ‘Dad, let’s have a few kicks on the lawn’,
Or ‘Let’s have a game of patio football’,
Or ‘Let’s have a game of patio tennis’,
Or ‘Dad, I want to show you a song’,
Or ‘Dad, will you drop me to Martin’s?’
I loved to see your smile
As you were going out the door to greet your friends.
I loved the photographs you took,
I loved the music you listened to,
I loved how sweet and easy you were with people
(Young or old), I loved to talk to you.
I loved to be told by strangers in the Breffni Inn
What a gentleman you were
When you worked at the Fleadh.
I even got used to
The smell of your deodorant.
I loved to drive you places and (especially) to collect you.
I would have done anything for you.
It was good to be your father
For nineteen years, eighty days and a couple of hours.
Now, for your mum and me there is an ache
With little solace and no cure;
The gap in the wall can be rebuilt
But this gap in our lives cannot.
We miss you, Sean;
You are always in our hearts and on our minds.
We love you, and we always will,
But love won’t bring you back …
You had so much to live for,
But you’re gone for good
And that is the hard part.