I wrote recently of Wendy Beckett, Mary Oliver, Hugh McIIvaney and Daniel O Leary. The graced poetry of their lives has gone which leaves a cold pain of loss. ‘Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.’ We can use such words glibly but the beauty of life is dulled without this quartet. Their music has gone. Who takes up the baton?
Last evening I was with a family around Laura. She was a young lass whose life had been very sore. Her partner Catherine was lost. Their daughter Katelyn was saying: ‘Tell her I love her.’ Laura looked better in the coffin than she has done for years. I knew too much. The only prayer possible in that house last night – was a spontaneous clatter of words from the hearts of this family and friends.
Liz (parish sister) and myself then went to James’ Hospital. Willie was dying. We had his Wedding to Lorraine some months ago. They had been together for 38 years. Lorraine must be one of the few women who ran up the aisle exactly on time. She had waited long enough! We surrounded Willie. We anointed him together. The prayerfulness of the occasion was in the warmth of love in the room. That was holy. Words from the Ritual would only be intrusive. We knew the family story. That was holy.
I came home to prepare for Laura’s funeral. What could be said that would make any sense? Church life and Church Liturgy is a foreign language. My mind wandered towards Daniel O Leary’s article in ‘The Tablet’ 2ndFebruary 2019 ‘Coming Home Too Soon.’ He was his usual chatty self. I loved the intimacy of the article. The light and the darkness was there. He might be amused if I used the Irish word –leadaranach. He rambled all over the place in his words. But it was beautiful. It was powerful. It was real. It was faithful. He used such words as: ‘No light.’ ‘Cantus firmus.’ ‘Imbibed with our mother’s milk.’ ‘Forever at the kitchen table of our hearts.’ His incarnate God was everywhere. He was at home in himself and we felt at home with his God. It was familiar.
Then he had a rant: ‘Clericalism is a collective malaise which keeps vibrant life at bay.’ ‘Compulsory celibacy is a kind of sin.’ ‘How long have I left on this beautiful blue planet?’
That was 31st December. He died on 21st January.
Jonathan Tulloch wrote a very special poem called Wild Geese – For Daniel. I recalled ‘Into Extra Time’ by Michael Paul Gallagher. There were ‘rumours of angels’ in everything they said. Like John 1.35: ‘What do you want? Where do you live? Come and see.’ Daniel and Michael Paul called us home to ourselves. How I wish their reflections might be mine when my days are ending. We accompany so many through their darkening days. I think we need to listen to Daniel and Michael Paul.
The article in ‘The Tablet’ is important. I am thinking of Henri Nouwen – The Wounded Healer. Who heals the healer? Who counsels the counsellor? Who draws out the prayer in the leader of prayer?
Daniel finished his lifetime work as he lived it. He was honest. He was human. He had a smile. But there were tears in his eyes.
I went back to Laura and felt humble as I dredged my mind and experience and knowledge to add something on her sad occasion.
Seamus Ahearne osa