Thursday, December 6, 2012

In Lieu of Donations Send Flowers

He was a good man Father. We’ll all miss him.
He was, he was, and so are you now Sean. I knew you’d be here today.
Arh, well, if you can’t pay your last respects, well…
Absolutely, Sean, excuse me while I have a word with the widow, will you?
No problem Father.

Sean moved to the side and let the priest by. He looked around the church. Not a bad turn out he thought. Kevin Slattery had been a truck driver, 35, two young kids. He’d lost control of his truck, on black ice, early last Tuesday morning. How was she going to cope, Grace, now he’d gone? Who’d help her take care of the kids? He hoped they’d be alright. Someone would run a dance for them but after that…

I’ll have a Guinness and a Jameson’s.

He liked a few did Sean. Nothing wrong with that he worked hard. Never missed a day’s work. Some old one was singing. The drink was taking effect. The pub was packed. Family. Friends. Workmates.  The tears were mixed with laughter. The stories were coming out now. The time Kevin came home so drunk he couldn’t get his key in the door. He didn’t want to wake Grace. He had one of those crappy key rings that some people like. The ones that go through a belt loop. Laura walked into the kitchen that Saturday morning to find the back door swinging open with a pair of jeans attached at the lock and nextdoor’s dog sat under the table. She’d gone mad but she was laughing now. Red eyed but laughing. Vodka and orange in one hand and a her daughter’s head pulled tight to her breast, held in the other.

There was a great sadness to a young man’s funeral. Life cut down in it’s prime. But, as far as Sean could see, you were almost guaranteed a big turn out. It made sense. As far as he could tell, the biggest draw was a man of around 25, still in touch with school friends, parents still around, aunts, uncles, grandparents, still going out fairly regularly, possibly still playing football, girlfriend or maybe married – that could double your circle if you got the right girl, one from a big family.

The older you got the more people went their own way.  Drifted apart. Settled down. Some even had the audacity to die themselves. Sean’s father had worked hard all his life. Everyday. He worked the farm back home. Cut turf.  Threshed.  Ploughed. Harvested. He never stopped. He had no time for socializing. He had no time. There was always something to do. His family had moved up the country to Meath from Kerry when he was young. They’d been given land in some government initiative. Divided Land it was called. Consequently, resentment came from the locals towards these west coast interlopers. After, often instead of, school Sean had worked the land beside his father and two brothers. The memory of his father’s death was constant. Sean had found him, in the top field. The plough horse braying and the terrier that was ever at his feet yapping frantically. Heart attack the doctor said.

The funeral was, as all funerals are, a sad affair. Sadder than most mind. Sean cried the whole service. His younger brother’s eyes glossed over but he held it in. Held his mother’s hand. His old
er brother, Cathal, never cried once. At 16 he was the head of the family now. It was his farm and his life was cast. Seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. A farm recognizes no holidays, only seasons. He was the eldest and it was expected.  To Sean, the saddest thing was how empty the church was. Family, the McKeon’s from the next farm over,the vet who had occasion to tend to a horse when Sean’s father was at a loss as to what had come over the animal, Sean’s school teacher. and a few people their father did business with when necessary. That was it.

So, while Sean was sad to see Kevin go he was pleased to see he’d had a good send off. As he looked at Grace  and the kids pitying them their bad luck, in his mind he couldn’t shake the memory of his father’s funeral and he renewed the vow he’d made to himself: He promised himself a good send off.

Jim Farrar.

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