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Remembering loved ones from home

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

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

And John

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.

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Hi Patricia. Mary V from Armagh just let me know of this site - and I had to come here immediately just to say hello. I have read your refllections with a lift in my heart. Thank you. We only crossed paths a couple of times, but yourself, Seamus and the kids have left a lasting impression. Keep doing what you're doing - and, please God, our paths will cross again. Jo O'Sullivan

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