Her first anniversary took place a few weeks ago. I spoke with her husband around the days – a phone call to a man who likes to talk – maybe needs to talk. I remember the call when his wife died and my visit to his little cottage where they lived, shared life and their love for many years. “Blow-ins”, some might call him and her for they were not locals. Born in Germany, they lived their lives there but thought they would like to spend the sunset years in Ireland. How that desire brought them to this parish and to a little cottage down a quiet boreen is their story to tell but the decision was never regretted.
I chatted with him the night she died and was fascinated by the story of their lives. They had travelled the world, often to do charitable work, including some time in Calcutta. His brother was a priest and his father a wood carver and the home is filled with the most magnificent wood carvings, including one of the face of Christ. When his brother was ordained, his father made a sculpture that was placed in the centre of their hometown and is still there. He had a smaller model of it that his father made afterwards for the family. He spoke with me about theology, about Pope Benedict whom he had encountered as a younger man and he chatted about Canon Law. Most of all he spoke about his wife. His heart was broken, and it was clear to me that a part of him had died.
The little leaflet for the funeral Mass had a youthful picture of her and she was beautiful. I could imagine her singing folk songs by a campfire, marching in protests, and wanting to make the world a better place. Maybe the little piece of our parish they called home, reminded her of what the world could and should be. I remember thinking that, though she had grown old and had, in her final months experienced much illness, he still saw the young woman in the photo, a woman that none of us in the church had ever seen. She would always be that woman to him.
As I spoke with him a few weeks ago, he told me that he gets up every morning at 5.45am, gets ready and walks to the cemetery to visit her grave. He spends some time there and walks home again. He repeats the journey (I’d say at least 4km round trip) in the afternoon. This is his daily routine. I called to the house again and picked up the conversation. The wood carvings are still there but now too, little night lights burning before precious photos of one loved and gone. I left him, glad that I had called but happy for her too, she must have lived and died knowing how much she mattered and the difference she had made in the life of another.
The tune came to mind: “Now he walks down the street in the evening/ and he stops by the old candy store/ and I somehow believe he’s believing that he’s holding her hand as before/ he smiles as he feels her love with him/ and laughs at the things she might say/ then the old man walks up to the hilltop/ and leaves her a daisy a day…”
In November, we remember.
LET US HAVE CHRISTMAS
A lot of talk about Christmas these days and our need to “have it”, to “celebrate” but sometimes I wonder what “Christmas” is being longed for. Sadly I suspect it could all too easily be the Christmas of reindeer, red-nosed and electrified on the most awful jumpers. It might be nights out, office parties, endless drinks, “toy shows”, crackers with their dreaded and driest imaginable jokes. I wonder is much thought given to that socially distanced shed, a young couple and a new born child? Maybe, just maybe, it’s not about going all out to celebrate but staying in to give thanks and to hope… hope that the Saviour will again find welcome.