We have been having a wonderful, bitter sweet time here in Ireland.
As we approached Donegal, l thought of Daddy more and more. The landscape changes from shades of green to a desolate rocky beauty. It is not like any other place I know. Then
our cousin James called my cell. When I heard his voice and his accent, all Daddy’s love for Ireland and memories of our family trips here came flooding back. I couldn’t help but cry. We met up at our B&B outside Donegal Town. James looked just the same. Noreen the innkeeper looked just same. She greeted us the a warm smile and hugs all around. The only thing missing was Dad. I wanted to visit with James but instead went to our room to try to compose myself. I had a good cry.
We freshened up and headed out to Patricia’s for a light dinner. But Patricia put out a feast instead of a light meal. Everything tasted wonderful and the four boys jumped right in. Patricia and Gerald’s girls had gown from schoolgirls to stunning young women. Geraldine and her family came over too. Their daughter Eilish has two boys. 10 year old Nathan who is a bit shy but has a smile that could melt your heart and 1year old Diarmuid. We talked about daddy’s passing and why we had come. Before we knew it it was time to leave for church.
James had written the Prayers of the Faithful and asked me to go over them. I added one for prayer for Uncle Jimmy who is fighting cancer and a mention of a Handful of friends that have passed.
Mom asked me to read Daddy’s eulogy. I wish she had given me heads up on that one. I quickly brought it up on my iPhone. I’ll just do a quick edit since I’ll be reading it in church. Hmm, cut this, cut that, and that too, oh yeah, that to ..shit. I have about 25% of the eulogy left. Shit.
I started to rewrite. In the van. One the way to the church. On my phone. On curving roads. Up and down hills. Thru what we would consider dirt roads. No problem.
When have always visited that church when we came to Donegal. We used to tease daddy that when he arrived there he had a miraculous healing of his bad knees. He would jump out of then (yes I said jump) and practically run to the Hilley grave. Today I stepped into the church and on a small table in the foyer was daddy’s picture. One I had never seen before. He was smiling that “I’m in Ireland smile” I could hear the singers rehearsing. It was daddy two favorite songs. Lady of Knock and Amazing Grace. Ok, more crying.
I pulled myself together during Mass. They sat us in the front row. I don’t know the mass too well so I usually just follow what everyone else does. From the front row, I couldn’t do that. Then to make things more complicated, it seems they kneel and stand at different times than we do. So Jolene and Mommy were kneeling when they should have been standing and I was hopping up and down, just being confused. Paula was behind me whispering …they’re standing! Get up!
Now they’re all kneeling! Everybody down. I’m certain we looked like a group of pretty half-assed Catholics.
The Priest gave a nice Homily about our family and the Irish American connection. Then it was time for my eulogy. I did the little bow thing and took my place at the lectern. I don’t go to church enough to know all the rituals but I knew all eyes were on me. I took a deep breath and started my iPhone.
Two sentences in, I got a reminder message that took up my entire screen. It was 12 noon at home. I had set it a long time ago to remind me to call dad and tell him to take his lasix. I just haven’t had the heart to shut it off. Damn. I hit cancel. It brought me back to the home screen. I couldn’t think where I had stored the edited eulogy. I started tapping away trying to find the file. Shit Shit Shit. I looked up and said I was having a technical difficulty. No one made a sound. Where the hell was that file?? After what seemed like about 2 days, I found the file under mail drafts. Thank God. I finished the eulogy and I think it went OK.
After the Mass everyone went over to the other church building. It was an old one room school. It had doors on two sides of the building. One for the girls to enter and one for the boys. But once inside they were all in the same room. Weird. Anyway, I went around back to the Hilley grave. I cried a little and thought of all the lives these people had created. My Grandparents, my Dad. Me. I gave them a little thank you. Then I stood in the spot where Daddy always stood and had Jol take my picture. My heart was breaking again.
Once inside I was immediately offered a cup of tea and those little sandwiches cut into triangles. (Note self: why don’t we ever do that? It looks so nice.) People talked and ate. There was a tiny peat fireplace that put off heat like a blast furnace. I warmed myself with a warm fire, a hot cup of tea and the welcome from all these people that came out to say goodbye to my Father.
I noticed four musicians setting up. Guitar, accordion and two violins. Three of the men were just what you would picture in a small village in Ireland and one much younger. They started to play and all our spirits lifted. the more they played the more I smiled. God, Daddy would have loved this. But this time I thought it with a smile on my face and my foot tapping.At one point they invited Anthony to come up and join in. I give the kid credit. He had never really heard that style of music but jumped in and played from his heart. Daddy would have loved that too.
Then two of the ladies in the crowd joined in with an Irish dance. It was wonderful. When I thought it couldn’t get any better, the older gentleman who had been playing the accordion took a broom from the kitchen and started a Broom Dance. It was simply amazing. The music took him and he danced like he was 20 years old. We whooped with pleasure and he danced on and on. When he finished we all stood and cheered and he plopped down and caught his breath. Now we were all standing and clapping and smiling until my cheeks hurt.
The sweet old gents would not take any money so I hugged them and thanked them over and over. It was around 11pm but still not quite dark. We headed home on a tiny road, so narrow I should really call it a path. Cows poked their curious heads into the road. We bumped up and down until we finally hit a paved road again.
I thought, today was the Solstice, the longest day of the year. I was in the middle of a field somewhere in Donegal. I had some of my favorite people with me. I had been given such an amazing gift of love by these people.
I swear I could actually feel my heart start to heal.