And so, my father, hail and farewell for evermore.


And So my Brother Hail and Farewell for Evermore - Jack B. Yeats (1945) after the death of his brother, the great poet W.B. Yeats. The title is taken from the ancient Roman poet Catullus' Poem 101.

And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:   

The sun-comprehending glass,

And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows

Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

- from 'High Windows' by Philip Larkin


One of my earliest memories is of you and me at home alone. You made me mashed potatoes, and I remember knowing then that I preferred the way that you made them. You probably put way too much butter in.


Then you wrapped me in a nice warm coat, zipped me all up and off we went, over to the park opposite Meadowbrook, beside the John Barleycorn Hotel. And I recall us walking up a hill. 


And then at the top we stopped. And I’m standing beside you now, and we are looking out into the world together. I'm warm, with my belly full, and we are holding hands looking off to the horizon in silence.


I learnt then how to look at the world. I saw how an artist looks out and listens to the music of what happens. I learned about prayer and what the sacred feels like. And most profoundly, I felt loved. Total silent open endless love. The kind of love that you did best, and that stood beside me minding me and teaching me my whole life. The kind of love that will never leave, and, if I do it right, the kind of love that I will leave behind me too. 


You dropped me to school one morning in the car. It was my first or maybe my second year in school. And I dreaded it. Looking back at it now I think it was because the teachers were so unhappy. 


Usually I walked up with Nór, but today you drove me. Maybe it was raining hard. You had to be at the university, but when we arrived outside the gate to the playground I knew I had to stall you for as long as I could before making that sorry trek across the yard. 


You gave in and decided to teach me how to read the clock. You pulled out a piece of paper and a pen and started to draw faces with hands and I was in heaven. The quarter to, the half past, I wanted it to go on forever. 


And you know, you always taught me about time. Especially the waiting. Waiting in the long grass for when the time is right. And striking when the iron's hot. And you were a master at both. Those nanoseconds before hammering that white hot key. Or the wisdom to hold back and keep your powder dry. You were right every time. 


Then you really had to go, to pioneer a claim on the wild frontiers of higher learning. And as I slid down from the seat onto the tarmac, you said what you said to me everyday on my way to school - this was your blessing - 'be good now, and don’t forget to mind all the little babas'.


And that famous time you were tucking me into bed in our home in Murroe. Maybe we were only renting it then, so might have been before I was eight years old. Sitting on the side of my bed, your full adult weight a gravitational force beside me, your warmth and fatherly smell an overwhelming comfort.


I would ask you questions. The deeper and more philosophical the better.  I learned early that these were the ones that sucked you in. I was wrapped in wonder at the earnestness that you would muster. Every question returned with a professorial elucidation. And then it was time for you to go, and you kissed my forehead, when it hit me, the perfect question - 'What is time Dada?'


You always told me the truth. I could trust in that. You always said how you would never break a promise. And that fascinated me.


You often reminisced with me about the night before your first day at the University of Limerick. I was heading out the kitchen door up to bed, I looked at you over the breakfast bar and whispered, "best of luck tomorrow dads". I remember that too. I knew something big was happening. And I knew you would be fabulous. What I didn't know is that the moment I left you glanced up through the high kitchen windows and saw a shooting star stripe across the sky. You often reminisced on this.


And heading off to boarding school at the age of twelve, you sent me packed with the essentials: a best-of Van Morrison double cassette album and a hardback first edition copy of Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time. It was the first edition because the second run hadn't been printed yet. And I felt like the coolest kid in the whole school. 


Then after a few weeks you came up to me in the middle of a school day to drop something off. Maybe I had called to try make you to come. Perhaps you'd heard the quiver of homesickness in my voice. But I knew what I was going to say.

 

The minute you saw me you knew too, and you put your arm around me and we took a walk up to the church. I couldn't fight back the tears. As you consoled me I remember whispering under my tears, ‘I really don't know how I'll stick this for another six years.’ 

And from that moment on, I felt totally at home in that wild and weird place. 


For around eight years, from when I was around twenty-two to thirty, we lived together held in the prayerful palm of that light filled Georgian farmhouse - Dromore. There were these mornings, usually weekend mornings, mid mornings, when you would burst into my room balancing a precariously overloaded tray of goodies for breakfast. Boiled eggs. Toast. An overflowing pot of tea. As much Mulcahy pottery as could be mustered. Sometimes even a little flower in small jar. "Carpe diem!!!" was the war cry, roared on the way downstairs to prepare me for the feast to come, or kept just for your theatrical grand entrance.


You offload your goods on the coffee table and then slide the tray down on the duvet as I prop myself up. And then we would eat. Sometimes talking, and sometimes not. And I couldn't imagine a more magical ritual, the holiest of communion, the pure essential specialness of the ordinary - waking into a new day, encouraged into the great unknown by the tray of loving invitation at my side. 

 

For your wake, you were laid out in the front room of your beloved Dromore. There you laid for three days, a holy vigil kept around you. Candles lit and incense burning, music playing. Cups of tea and tears and smiles and hugs. Speaking to you through sobs of such tenderness, touching your face, hands upon the miracle of your hands. Memories flooding over me, of childhood especially, wave after surging wave with the same sensation of a bully’s push, then a playful pull, then the backwash of sand sucked from underneath my feet - then nothingness, for a time, before the next one. 


Your spirit was so present there. Not the same as when you were alive. It was a different presence; strange - but you were there. I felt you there. Like a burning fire that burned but never changed. Needed no fuel. Needed nothing. Gave no heat. Gave only presence. Life presence. Like those moments when light washes the room through the thought of high windows. And there is only the sense of everything - everywhere - forever


The sun-comprehending glass,

And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows

Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.


- from 'High Windows' by Philip Larkin



Turas d'Anam - Soul Journey in Ireland

Contact - Owen Ó Súilleabháin

174 Main St. East Aurora, NY 14052 - 716.380.7244

Turas_dAnam-Journey-green+black.png