To Sean … The Last Day of Your Life

[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.



Filed under Death, Uncategorized

32 responses to “To Sean … The Last Day of Your Life

  1. papaguinea

    Brendano – I am not ashamed to say this has brought tears to my eyes for it must rip at your heart to sit and bring these lines to page. Whenever I have lost someone close (not a son or daughter) I have always sought a reference point for that “goodbye moment” – like the place on the map where we last were or spoke. It is almost like I invent a transfer point. When I haven’t been there so see someone go, then I invent a place and a time when I said goodbye and often it is a scene from the past that I resurrect for that moment. We look for something tangible to give us reference. (It was similar with my father but there were no goodbyes.) I many ways this last day was a wonderful day for both Sean and yourself. The tapestry of love that binds you and he together is strong and enduring. What we see on these shores is the opposite side of that tapestry, all knots and bits of wool. But from Sean’s side, where he is now, he sees that beautiful completed picture. Yes, he loves you and he always will. There are not many kids that get to kick footballs against a wall with their dad!

  2. Marya

    Dear Brendano …. so heart-breaking, so hard to bear. I grieve for you and your family ..

    Marya x

  3. I can’t find the words, even in Turkish. I wish I could hug you Brendan. Still praying for you.

  4. Shermeen

    Beautiful expression of deep pain, each word laden with love and a very happily lived life.

  5. Thanks very much for the comments, PapaG, Marya, Levent and Shermeen. Four of the best MyT bloggers, and old friends.

    I like the tapestry image, PapaG, and my wife will like it too. Much appreciated.

  6. Sean’s death has touched people in Turkey, England, Ireland and across the world. Are you having a months mind for him?

  7. Yes, that’s the usual thing.

  8. sabina

    I have been away and did not know,Marya has just told me.
    Oh dear Brendano what can I say,my heart breaks for you and your family,I have no idea why and what happened.
    I have no words to say which will lessen your pain,but just remember that a lot of us are thinking and praying of you.
    Please accept my condolences.

  9. Thank you very much, Sabina. I know how good and how kindhearted you are, and that you will feel this deeply.

    Your condolences are much appreciated.

  10. Bilby

    I can’t find words either, Brendan, only tears for your anguish and heartache. Bless you all.

    Bilby x

  11. deirdre dinsmore

    although i never met Sean he obviously meant the world to you. I feel i know him a little now after reading this. Thinking of you at this very dificult time. Keep talking about him!


  12. Cymbeline

    In ordinary times, you have a natural gift for enjoying everyday life. So did your son, from what I see. You shared that gift, and you shared it to the end. That is a luminous gift and one not given to all.

    When I first heard the news that made me shake, I was frightened that your child may have been in a car crash. I shook at the idea of you seeing your child’s mutilated body. Saturday night fun turning into early Sunday car wreckage terror on cold roads.

    He was borne away by his heart, and he died in a warm and loving home. You both fell asleep in that home. Only the father woke up.

    I do not seek to console the unconsolable.

    I am thinking of you and yours all the time. The visit from my family has not changed that.

    • Anna, thank you so much. Your letter arrived yesterday (the postman had been holding on to our mail so that we wouldn’t be bothered by bills and suchlike).

      You are very kind. Yes, if he had to die, he did so in the most amenable circumstances possible, and that is certainly a consolation to us.

  13. Cymbeline

    What a lovely picture. You were teaching him how to fly, and he was full of confidence. He knew that you would never let him fall.

  14. Cymbeline

    He knows that you will never let him fall.

  15. Cymbeline

    Lucca is interesting and so is that angel.

    But it is marriage that makes man and woman one flesh. Love between man and woman is far more powerful than places and bronze.

    You were with your son in that warm, loving home, and so, therefore, was your wife, his mother. She was not absent.

  16. Cymbeline

    One flesh.

  17. papaguinea

    Brendano, I just want to say how lovely that further comment is by Cymbeline – “He knows that you will never let him fall”.

  18. Metin YILMAZ

    I can’t say anythin Brendano, just pray and wish to you patient.

  19. Amy Schneider

    Lovely tribute. I hope that writing it helped you heal even a tiny little bit.

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