It was cold last night
No stars in sight
No moon to light the way
I thought that you
Might be lonely too
On the eve of All Souls’ Day
The storm had hurled
The teardrops in the world
Against some hearts of stone
I went to you
And told you to
Never cry alone
A new song.
MAKE TIME GOOD
I know you’ve done the best you could
I know you have a hill to climb
We just need to make time good
We don’t need to make good time
I don’t have any place to go
There’s nothing heavy on my mind
I’m prepared to take it slow
You never know what we might find
This unholy blur started with shivers:
Our lives’ coldest spell.
You were gone for no reason;
Time passed slowly while snow fell.
Ireland froze, except for rivers of tears.
One of the good things about Ireland, I have often thought, is the lack of emotional distance between people: the fact that we (generally speaking) tend to see everyone we encounter as a potential friend, and are prepared to help when we can, or at least to interact and be friendly. The lack of reserve, of formality, of self-importance. Of course there can be a downside to national qualities like these, but it certainly doesn’t outweigh the upside in this case.
I think this photo, from thejournal.ie, captures the lack of emotional distance well. It shows the rugby player Jamie Heaslip at Dublin Airport yesterday, as part of the homecoming of Ireland’s victorious Six Nations squad, and a young fan. Heaslip is clowning around and pretending to be trying to wrestle the trophy from the boy, who surely will always remember the moment. Heaslip is happily giving something that he doesn’t need to give.
This generosity of spirit – also shown by the other players, who mingled freely with fans and posed in numerous ‘selfies’ – is something we should be thankful for. In the words of an old beer commercial, ‘it’s part of what we are’. It connects us and makes us stronger: we may not have much, but we know what we have.
A life long or short, although it is time-limited, contains an infinity of moments, just as a line contains an infinity of points. Some of Sean’s moments are captured, imperfectly, in photographs: a small number among the infinity.
At some point my infinity of moments in this life will end. I may become less than I am now before the end, but I hope to become more than I am now in the meantime.
People sometimes ask Pauline and me how we are coping with losing Sean, and we answer as best we can. Words are inadequate. We are glad that they ask, though. We have sometimes wished that more people would ask, even if we can’t answer properly. It’s not that we want sympathy; it’s that we are still a family of four, and always will be. We like to speak about both of our children.
I have often said that one deals with something like this on different levels. Just a few hours after I had found Sean’s body, I was able to show something to a visitor to our house that I knew would surprise and amuse him, and we laughed about it. I was on that level at that moment. I was also operating on deeper levels at which I was no doubt trying to process, unconsciously, the awful thing that had happened.
I remember that within a week or so of Sean’s death, an online acquaintance became slightly impatient at the fact that I was still talking about it on my blog (in fact I talked a lot about it there for a couple of years). This person saw himself as spiritual, and knew that I saw myself the same way. As far as he was concerned, Sean was in a better place, all was right with the world and the universe, and I really ought to get over it already. I was polite, but I knew that the person in question was being naïve. I could adopt his attitude at one level, but not at all the others. People are not so simple. The online acquaintance stopped commenting on my blog. Continue reading
Some years ago we bought Cat Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman CD, mainly for the very brief title track, which was featured at the end of each episode of Extras and which we all (all four of us, that is) really liked. Another track on the album, which of course I already knew well, was ‘Father and Son’.
The CD has been playing in the car quite a lot recently, and I have been paying more attention than of old to the words in ‘Father and Son’, which alternate between the father’s and son’s points of view.
The father is counselling calmness and conservatism (‘It’s not time to make a change’). The son is complaining about deficiencies in his upbringing. Among the son’s lines are:
How can I try to explain?
When I do he turns away again
It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk
I was ordered to listen
All the times that I’ve cried
Keeping all the things I knew inside … Continue reading