Friday, 18 February 2011

Memories of a friend

It is my experience that there are occasions – provided you are open to them- when people come into your life at just at the right time. They offer guidance, a sounding board and friendship just exactly as you need it and for as long as you need it.

I was at the funeral yesterday of just one such person. Many years ago she welcomed me into her home and her family at a difficult stage in my life and probably contributed a great deal more to the man that I have become than she ever realised. She offered humour and compassion and expected nothing in return.

Her sons, my oldest friends, spoke eloquently from the pulpit about their mother. The main thing they talked about was how much of a joker she was. Her favourite involved an empty cup and saucer. A first time guest would be offered a cup of tea. She would carry it carefully from the tea tray and pretend to stumble just as she reached them. The cup would fall. The guest would jump back into their seat expecting a lap full of boiling water but all they got was an empty china cup and a slice of laughter. The ice was broken and the mood was set for the remainder of their visit.

It’s easy to almost deify the recent dead but she really was one of the nicest people I have ever met. I never heard a cruel comment from her and everyone who knew her had nothing but good to say of her. Being in her company was a constant joy.

I wrote the following poem – not for her – but for someone else who came into my life just when I needed them – but the sentiment and the appreciation is shared equally between them.

Here’s to all of our guardian angels... may they continue to find us when we need them and may we all be given the opportunity to provide the same service for others.

Father Martin.

The years have cast a haze
over the man who gave me the chess set.
The line of his nose may have been broken
by spectacles, his hair
may have been seasoned grey.

I was so short. He seemed a giant.
He was a giant, but was he tall?
He taught me how to play,
where to find whelks,
how not to abuse privilege.
All of those lonely, convent children
and he gave the chess set to me.

I found it in a cupboard
unopened  after three house moves
and twenty-five years.
One piece missing
its foam outline empty
as the space behind a mirror.

The set is dusted with memory of his voice,
“Guilt and religion should be strangers.”
“We grieve for ourselves, not our dead.”
“Going to Mass weekly, is not the measure of the man.”

I was nine.
I understood every word.

After the funeral family and friends had tea and sandwiches at a local hotel and a wheen o’ blethers (translation – we talked a LOT)

When I got home I had trouble sleeping, my mind full of the day. Just before I turned off the TV, I was channel surfing. I caught the last ten minutes of the movie (based on the book) Tuesdays With Morrie. The old coach on his deathbed offered support and advice to his friend who was grieving in anticipation of the his passing.

The old fella offered this – “Death means the end of a life: not the end of a relationship.”

God bless you, Marie and thank you for everything.


  1. Amen, Michael.

    Please accept my sympathies on the loss of your friend and my congratulations for finding a way to prolong her life.

  2. Beautiful, Michael. Sorry to hear of the sad loss but in total agreement with the sentiments it provoked. Your gratitude and love keep her and Father Martin's presence strong. And 'empty as the space behind a mirror' is a stunning image'.

  3. Thanks, Linda and Bill.

    (Bill, I'm quite proud of that image. I love it when they appear in your mind like a gift.)

  4. That is really touching, Michael, both the sentiments and the poem.

  5. So sorry for your loss, Michael. Friends like this are a treasured gift every time we remember them.

  6. he he she really knew how to set the mood. Sounds like a truly nice lady.

  7. Thanks, E - hope you are looking after yourself.

    Dez - she was a star. I'll miss her.

  8. Long after my Granny died I "came upon" my father's bible. He had carried it all through WWII and when he got married it must have lain in my Granny's hame for many years. Inside the bible were the pressed petals from one of the roses from the bouquet that my Granny had been presented with from the family for her golden wedding. Inside the front cover my little cousin Marie (strange, the same name) wrote:
    "A rose will always dies, it dies and fades away,
    A life unlike a rose, will always stay".
    In your memory forever.
    And there it is Michael, from the mind and words of a child. A life, unlike a rose will ALWAYS stay.
    A rose (like a loved one) is a thing of beauty, like the loved one, it will die, it will turn to dust and disappear into the mists of time. But a life will NEVER end as long as we keep it in our memories.

    Take care of you.

  9. Sorry, it should have read:

    "A rose will always DIE, it dies and fades away,
    A life unlike a rose, will always stay".
    In your memory forever.

  10. Lovely stuff, NumptyHeid. You looking after yursel?

  11. I'm fine (nearly)

    Be bad

  12. i think one can only hope that when they pass away, they are honored by such honest, praising words. bless you all.