Those We Miss

I’m back in Ireland for a visit, on the windy north coast. Two years ago I was jettisoned back here, life interrupted, everything suspended after K. died.  It was an unreal time, those early months.  Your world contracts to the size of a snow globe, sometimes calm, but often shaken – those little white flecks making a fuzzy mess of an upturned life.  Two years ago I would walk the beach – the long one, to the east of the town, where I would meet fewer people – letting the ever-present wind blow my mind clear, salve my rawness.  I had long conversations with K. out there on the beach, often aloud: disorderly, jumbled, chaotic words, a tangle of rambling questions, normal after a sudden death.  Wind and water and time can loosen (maybe not answer) the tangled thoughts and feelings, and slowly but surely take the tension from the knot.  Yes, I’m home to the same raw wind blowing across the same pale sand, but I am less raw.

Yesterday, between showers, I cut the grass.  Our neighbour J. greeted me this morning, “I know you’re home when I hear the lawnmower going”.  I’ve enjoyed bumping into T. on the garage forecourt, waving to M. in the supermarket car-park, nestling into my beach-side haunt for a coffee, walking the coast road where the wind breaches any little crack it can find in my clothing.  The town is under construction. It looks apologetic, like a child who has been sent to detention too many times. I meet P., the local estate agent, and wonder aloud how it can ever be finished in time for next year’s ‘Open’, when the glitterati of the golf world will descend on this little place.  “It’ll all be ship shape by June,” he assured me.  His words sounded practiced, overly hopeful.  I don’t see how.  On Sunday, after church, I caught up with people I’d not seen for years.  A new baby for T. and S. (how could I not have known?), and N. home from Australia for a shindig: little sister’s getting married. There has been a night at home with friends and family from Canada; songs from either side of the Atlantic traded: S. singing ‘The Rose of Avondale’ and J. responding with a Canadian classic by Gordon Lightfoot.  I’m not in a snow globe anymore.  I’m back in the world.

I’ve been up to the grave.  Resting high above the town, the cemetery commands a fine view of the peninsula below, punctuated with unsightly cranes in the race towards next summer.  Donegal, rising to the west, and the rolling dunes and lush fairways of the golf course to the north-east bring a sense of space and perspective – just what’s needed when we come to remember those we miss.  Hawthorn hedges, alive with sparrows and a few feisty robins, flank the graveyard.  In an adjacent field, cut but not yet ploughed, crows rise and fall into the stubble. Gulls caw above.  It can be blowy up there, but around midday yesterday it felt calm and still.  We did as people do by a graveside: feel the gap of loss and let the fault line in the heart rattle and shift.  Buried in Drumcliffe Cemetery, County Sligo, W.B. Yeats has the simplest of headstones, inscribed with the famous words: “Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by.”  It is poetic, that’s for sure, but even with the passage of time and one’s scalded heart gradually healing, we will never pass by.

Song for a Winter’s Night, Gordon Lightfoot

The lamp is burnin’ low upon my table top

The snow is softly fallin’

The air is still within the silence of my room

I hear your voice softly callin’

If I could only have you near

To breathe a sigh or two

I would be happy just to hold the hands I love

Upon this winter night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead

My glass is almost empty

I read again between the lines upon the page

The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart

That you were lonely too

I would be happy just to hold the hands I love

Upon this winter night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim

The shades of night are liftin’

The mornin’ light steals across my windowpane

Where webs of snow are driftin’

If I could only have you near

To breathe a sigh or two

I would be happy just to hold the hands I love

And to be once again with you

6 thoughts on “Those We Miss

  1. again, your words, so beautiful and I love that Gordon Lightfoot song, I am more familiar with the Sara McLaughlin version, I will look his up, xo


  2. That hillside graveyard is a wonderful viewing point on still, sunny October days to catch sight of the Whooper Swans coming in from Iceland to over winter in Ireland. You can see them like fine, grey, undulating horizontal lines out at sea, gradually making land. And call loudly as they go overhead. Their constancy is reassuring. They never forget to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “How many loved your moments of glad grace,
    And loved your beauty with love false or true,
    But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face…”

    Thank you, once again, for sharing some of your moments of beauty, grace and changing sorrows. So happy to think of you feeling more at peace with yourself in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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