Sean’s world 2

In our rented house in the country

For me, Sean’s psychic trail is imprinted on this area like invisible snail tracks that can be sensed by those who love him. The place is saturated with his spirit.

Every bend, every field, every bump in every road is something we experienced together many, many times in all kinds of weathers over the past 12 years. Going to rugby training; dropping him to school, to town; talking, listening to music or silent; in every conceivable mood. A shared world, occupied differently by each of us and acted on by the other(s). Co-living. Sean’s action is all in absentia now. We miss his real presence.

I remember the big pile of topsoil behind our rented house … a kind of adventure playground for the kids. The perpetually waterlogged field beside it that we called ‘the Swamp’ … as good as the Everglades for fun and adventures, though lacking alligators (there’s a house there now, somewhat worryingly). Our wellingtons got stuck in the mud and we fell over.

The fields we used to walk up behind the house; the stream we crossed … the cats following us, to the cattle’s annoyance. (Both tabby cats were killed on the road. We missed them.) The hares we watched. The place at the top of the hill where their granny and granddad left treasure for the kids to find (we didn’t know that granddad would not be long in this world).

The time the four of us walked down the road and round the corner on Christmas Day 1998, when snow was on the ground, singing ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’. We were so happy. Before the fence was erected the house was naked in the field; the cattle came right up to it and you could hear them breathing at night. Two wagtails flew together into our bedroom window; one died. There were fossils in the hardcore.

It was country life, and none of us had lived in the country before … only in towns or cities. We took to it right away.



Filed under Ireland

62 responses to “Sean’s world 2

  1. Cymbeline

    Hello Brendano. You have painted a living picture of happiness, with brush-strokes of instinctive colour. It is a beautiful, uncluttered picture. Nothing can take those memories away from you.

    How unbearable it must be to feel your son’s life all around you, while not being able to see and touch him in the physical sense. I wish you all the strength in the world.

  2. Cymbeline

    Your wife is another sort of artist. I read about the stained glass memorial she is making. I hope that working for your son through her art will help her to live through the terrible pain your family has to bear.

    • Thanks, Cymbeline. It will be quite simple … I’ll probably post a photo here. It will serve as a marker until such time as a headstone can be put in place (one must allow time for subsidence, apparently).

  3. Marya

    Your decision to move to the country, Brendan, and, in particular, to choose to make your home in Munterconnaught proved to be an inspired one and a great blessing for you as individuals and as a family.
    The natural beauty of the area and the warmth and friendliness of the neighourhood; the background to your lives, now sustains you as you walk, bereft, in those meadows of your mind.
    You write beautifully of those memories .. you don’t walk alone: Sean’s spirit is surely with you

    Marya x

    Marya x

    • Thank you very much, Marya. Yes, moving here was a very good decision on our part (dumb luck, some might say :-)). Rural Ireland in general offers a lot of advantages.

      Looking back, it is not hard for me to infer a pattern of order or guidance in our lives, and the notion, perhaps, that Sean’s death was also part of a pattern or plan … that it had somehow had a place in the great scheme of things and was not a cruel and random act of fate.

      • Cymbeline

        I read what you said about the feeling of culmination, with the house being in good order, and there being a spirit of harmony.

        I understand that feeling very well, and I hope that it continues to give you strength.

        • Thanks, Cymbeline. I think we are strong and well-balanced people to begin with, with good relationships. The sense of strong connection to others is very important … it would be awful if one were isolated. On the other hand, perhaps it would be easier if we had loved Sean less.

          It would also be much harder if Sean’s death had been violent or traumatic, I think. I feel very sorry for those who have been bereaved in a horrific manner.

        • Cymbeline

          You would never wish to have loved less. You would never wish to have been frightened of loving. Pain is love in another form. Pain and love cannot be separated.

          Yes, it would have been even harder to bear if you had had to cope with the idea of your son leaving this our world through the door of physically violent circumstances, or alone in fear, a long way from home.

          The fact remains that it was a horrific discovery for you on your own on that day. You matter too.

        • Yes, Cymbeline. Thank you.

      • Marya

        I see that ‘pattern of order’in my own life, Brendan, … sometimes the shake of the kaleidoscope takes some while to settle into a coherent whole.
        I feel the inter-connectedness of things that makes me certain that, although I may not understand the ‘why’, there is a purpose and a reason.

        Apologies for the double signature 🙂

  4. Hello Rainer … that sounds like a fantastic time! We’re not quite as isolated here but yes, it is a long walk to the shop. 🙂

    Yes, we’re lucky to have had Sean in our lives. I think we’re handling it OK … we are both working, and Susanna is at school. But it is still painful, for two reasons … we are missing out through Sean not being here, and he is missing out on things in this life he loved … for example, he would have made a great father; he was very good with small children and enjoyed playing with them. The pain cannot simply be wished away.

    I do cherish the hope that his spirit has passed on to another sphere or level of life.

    • Rainer the cabbie

      It has, but the joyful memory that was his life is still with you.

      Cherish it!

      I don’t mean for you to wish the pain away; that simply can’t be done.
      What I wish for you and your family is to have beautiful memories about Sean and his life.
      Try to look at it like a magnificent flower that grows in your garden.
      Come Autumn, it will go, but what is under ground will flourish, even though you may not be part of that experience.
      Its a cycle Brendon, I appreciate your loss and grieve, all I mean to say is that what is hard about it is your pain and interpretation of the event.
      Time will heal.

    • Cymbeline

      No, pain cannot be wished away, and neither should anyone try to wish it away. Mourning is a long and complex human process, and attempting to tamper with that process is a grotesque denial of ourselves.

    • Cymbeline

      I understand your feeling of your son having missed out, the idea of him not being able to be a father any more. But he had a girlfriend, and had become a young man.

      There is a Nabokov story about a grieving Russian father who visited the family’s shut-up country house in the middle of the Russian winter. It is icy, and he calls on the old retainer to put on the heating. He sits in his dead son’s bedroom, and goes through his things. There is a collection of chrysalises (chrysales?), old papers, and a diary etc. The mourning father sits at his son’s desk and becomes absorbed by the diary, as the house slowly warms. Turning the pages, he sees that his young dead son had loved a girl, and known about love, a reciprocated love. His heart feels warmer, and hours later he lifts his head to see that a chrysalis is opening and becoming a huge living moth or butterfly.

      • A wonderful story. We have a visitor at the moment who told us about her sister’s death eight years ago. The sister had got married that October … it was a very happy day, and everyone remarked on all the butterflies that were flying about at that time of year. She died suddenly on Christmas Day.

        We’re very glad that Sean had an intense relationship for a year, and had experienced that kind of love. He had always been popular with young women.

  5. Cymbeline

    When I was twelve, we were celebrating Christmas day at my grandparents’ house. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, my sisters. Cracker crowns on our heads, turkey, sprouts etc, cracker jokes etc. One of my uncles was not at table with us. He lived just down the road from my grandparents, and had stayed in bed that morning as he had felt unwell. His daughter, my mother’s cousin, nipped out to check up on him between the turkey and the Christmas pudding.

    About twenty minutes later, she appeared at the door of the dining room. Her face was twisted into a strange shape and she could not really talk. I did not understand, but the older members of the family understood. They all leapt up and left.

    I was left alone with my two younger sisters at the festive table. We knew that something terrible had happened. We felt naughty and felt that we had to work. We cleared the table and started washing up. My grandmother came back very quickly and wanted us to have the pudding; there was a big thing about ‘not spoiling Christmas for the children’.

    The uncle died on Christmas day, on exactly the same day as Charlie Chaplin. Years later, two of my children were christened in the French Alps by the Geneva-based vicar who had buried Charlie Chaplin in Switzerland.

    • An intriguing story … I like the Chaplin connection.

      It made me think of St Patrick’s Day last year (I think it was). Sean was in the pub with us, which was unusual, and there was music. Very late in the night Sean and the man who owns the pub (but does not run it) each had an arm around the other’s shoulder, and the two of them were singing away merrily and having a whale of a time.

      The same man was the undertaker who buried Sean.

      • Cymbeline

        Yes, so many reflections always reflecting back and forth into each other.

        • Cymbeline

          You and Marya see private patterns, involving personal meaning and personal paths made for you in advance by God or some other power that we do not fully understand.

          I do not see that. I see the same patterns of life and death repeating and reflecting themselves endlessly and randomly all through humanity and time. That is a pattern too of course, but it does not make a special case out of any individual. To me, there is no micro-management of the single soul or of the single life. This is why I think we need art and literature. Great art and literature is always to do with understanding the human condition as a whole. And, paradoxically, this is what gives succour to the individual, the sense of being part of a whole.

          You speak of the latter idea in a different way, Brendano. You speak of the community around you. I do not really need other people in that way.

          Different ways of seeing, but reflections of each other.

        • An interesting perspective. I know from what you have written before that you don’t believe in fate. I think terms like ‘in advance’ and ‘micro-management’ may be somewhat anthropocentric, although that’s nit-picking … what I believe in, really, is purpose and connectedness. I think separation is an illusion, but a necessary one in order for new ground to be broken … otherwise all would be harmonious and static. Still, that illusion gives rise to much conflict and misery.

          There was a time when I thought I didn’t need a community and so forth. I now feel that it’s better to have one.

        • I have no wish to turn this into a religious debate but fate is not about doing, its about knowing primarily.

        • I’m interested in your religious insights, Levent.

          What would Rumi have to say about all this, or the Sufis?

        • Cymbeline

          Levent. I can understand how the Islamic idea of submission can be a source of great spiritual peace.

        • I don’t know really Brendan. I’m not sure but I think Rumi had lost his daughter.

          I think, he sees only one, not plenty. His love is “distributed” from one.

          I remember reading something from him about parting but can’t recall them now.

        • Cymbeline

          Brendano. I know that you feel a bit jaded about Catholicism.

          Have you ever been interested in the other ways of being Christian? Mmm, probably not. The idea of the ‘Protestant’ etc.

          Anyway, I think that you are a good Christian.

        • Thanks, Cymbeline. Not really. Some very simple way, perhaps, although I do like the ‘smells and bells’ aspects of Catholicism. I wish Christ would make himself known here and now.

          Sean felt that the world needed a charismatic leader to show the right way. He wasn’t religious, though. He said ‘I believe in the power of the human mind’.

        • Cymbeline

          Jesus is everywhere. His teachings are certainly in you. What do you think I mean when I speak of your light?

        • Looking inwards instead of outwards for the truth is another idea I have sometimes espoused (or echoed). I forgot about it there for a moment. I suppose there is no easy way, and we have to cross that lonesome valley.

        • Cymbeline

          You are an exemplary Christian.

        • Cymbeline

          Brendano. Concerning literature, you may find Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Contemplations’ of both spiritual help and literary interest. The poet’s daughter drowned when she was nineteen.

        • Thanks, Cymbeline. I’ll bear that in mind.

        • I’ve had a look online … my French isn’t good enough for the original, but some of his poems are available in translation.

        • Marya

          Good morning, Brendan and Hello again, Cymbeline .. I don’t quite see this ‘private pattern’ in the way you have described.
          My belief is that the ‘personal path’ of which you speak, is to me in fact, the universal path demonstrated by Jesus’ example .. ‘ I am the way, the truth and the life’

          and in trying to follow His ‘way’ I, as a Christian, am faced throughout my daily life with many pathways of decisions .. It is on looking back on former decisions that I have taken that I discern the inter-connectedness which forms
          the ‘pattern of order’in my life.
          I don’t think it is a pre-destined or pre-ordained journey 🙂

          I’m hopeless at trying to explain myself .. ( perhaps that’s why I find myself more comfortably attempting ‘some kind of poetic expression’ …

        • Thanks for clarifying that, Marya. It’s a good way to live … ‘a path with a heart’.

        • Cymbeline

          Hello, Marya. That explanation is quite, quite wonderful. I had never thought about it like that before. Thank you so much, you have filled me with great joy because you have helped me to understand. You are so lovely.

          Years ago, in a second-hand shop, I bought a framed painting that I had never seen before. ‘Suffer the little children’ by the Croatian painter Vlaho Bukovac. I loved it and it has been on my sitting room wall ever since, in all the houses I have lived in. I wonder if the painting might help you in some small way, Brendano.

        • I can only see small reproductions of it online, so it’s hard to tell. But I doubt it, to be honest.

        • Cymbeline

          Thank you for your honesty.

        • Rainer the cabbie


          Cymbeline, you say :

          “To me, there is no micro-management of the single soul or of the single life. This is why I think we need art and literature.”

          Then you state :

          “Jesus is everywhere. His teachings are certainly in you. What do you think I mean when I speak of your light?”

          These two paragraphs are contradictory. In the way that they state, to my mind, that we all are part of consciousness, but then we are part of a particular doctrine, represented by religion and its teachings.

          I’d rather think that we are part of a universal conscious, something that can’t be defined by word, or teachings of man.

          That is why art and literature is so important. It is the one thing that separates us from the animal world and adds to what is special about us, as an entity.

          Everything else is made up, but it did produce some nice art.

          Something is out there, but to define it by our primitive understanding is a folly.

        • Cymbeline

          I do not wish to inflict my Christian faith and thoughts on anyone, Rainer. Sometimes I think that you try to browbeat other people into thinking as you do. There is a sort of arrogance and manic missionary zeal to it. I do not like it.

          I simply try to help Brendano. He is free to cast aside any or all of my thoughts.

    • Marya

      Hello Cymbeline .. I’m so pleased to know that my reply has helped you .. I’m joyful, too 🙂
      Thank you for such kind words.

      Yes, that gentle admonition to the disciples has always touched my heart, too ..

  6. Chrystodoulou? No, that was a kid I sat next to in school.

  7. This mourning thing, is a bit strange to me. I cannot fully understand to confront the pain.

    I was just going to say, perhaps you could with your wife and daughter take a trip.

    May God bless you with patience, Brendan.

  8. Cymbeline

    Your daughter has been invited to France too.

    I would no doubt be able to force myself to invite the parents as well.

  9. Cymbeline,

    I guess you take it, closing one’s eye, or ignoring everything else.

    Have you ever tought that the of freedom is just an illusion?

    What do you think when you hear the Moses’ story, the Pharaoh(?)?

    • Cymbeline

      Of course freedom is an illusion, Levent.

      Moses, the babe in the rushes saved by the Queen of Egypt. A good thing to save a baby, any baby. For me, the Old Testament is full of good stories. The New Testament is more important to me.

      • I think that illusion drew Phoarah crazy, Cymbeline. Which is the moral of the story.

        • Cymbeline

          Casting back to me colouring-in days at Sunday School …. yes the Pharoah wanted to kill all the first-born male babies.

        • Cymbeline

          … am I supposed to see that he could not do what he wanted? That God deemed otherwise?

          Is this the amazing moral of the story?

          We know about these things, and have known about them for a long time, Levent.

  10. Marya

    Thank you, Brendan .. you’re very kind .. but I’ve no sense of direction ..I’ve always needed a SatNav 🙂

  11. Wonderful comment Marya.

    Cymbeline, I don’t know why your guard is always up against me. You will receive no harm from this man, ever, and I don’t ever try to change the way you are, madam.

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