Updated: Sep 13
Saying goodbye to a loved one is always hard. It is especially hard when you can't meet with all those who would like to offer comfort and support at this time. Meeting online might offer some comfort, to share memories, photos, and songs or poems ( like the one below) that remind of us our loved ones.
The poem below was written after the last time I met my Mum's cousin, John McLaughlin, a sheep farmer from north Donegal, who died only a few weeks later.
John in the Glen, December 2016
John in the Glen, on his tractor near the sheep dip
Sunken, thinner more purple in the face
The rugged look that had for so long masked his advancing years
had given way to a visible aging and fragility.
But he was still driving the tractor.
It was good to catch him on the tractor
It meant the chat had to be a quick one
It resolved the awkwardness of saying we wouldn’t all come in
That we were only calling to say hello
When really – as we all knew- we were calling to say goodbye.
It was lovely to let the kids see him,
A linking of the generations
A point to refer back to
‘Do you remember the man we met on the tractor…’
He was heading off to chase sheep
To chase them from the edge of the hill nearest to the us
Away out to the back of the hill
So they would not be tempted to come down near the open gate
And out on to the road.
The chat finished up even quicker than expected
A young fella in a heavy yellow digger came up the lane from John’s house
We could see him coming
But he caught John by surprise
A young healthy farmer
On heavy new equipment
Coming up to overtake
And maybe make obsolete
Much of John’s lifetime of quiet hard work.
So we parted
Us with kids
Back into car at McGettigan’s corner
And ultimately back to life in Dublin
The young lad on his yellow digger
With a sociable hand wave
Off towards the main road and on about his work
Turning – at about 4 o’clock
up the stony lane to the back of the hill
Moving slowly in his tractor
seeming small as he inched it up the hill
In the gathering gloom of that late December afternoon
A new year approaching
Likely to be John’s last
May he move quietly calmly, peacefully, through his own gathering gloom
May there be new light breaking at the back of his hill when he reaches it
And a warm welcome home from one Shepherd to another.