I was honoured to give a eulogy for him at his funeral mass.
But I thought my elder brother, Eddie, grasped hold of an elusive thing in his own eulogy at our final (for now) farewell.
I asked him if I could record it here and he kindly agreed.
Michael (obscured) with Eddie (centre) on Lough Gill with Dad, in his Boat
Michael and Me
This short story, which I call
‘Michael and Me’, is me explaining to you what I mean when I say to Michael,
‘I’ll see you on White Shore’. If I fall apart in the telling, bear with me and
we’ll make it through it together.
The last verse of the poem by Máirtín Ó Direáin ‘An tEarrach Thiar’ /’The Western Spring’:
San Earrach thiar.
Gentle lapping of oars
As a currach full of fish
Comes towards the shore
On a calm golden sea
In the Western Spring.
Michael and me spent many of our
years fishing. On the river, in short trousers, we’d be up at ‘the Slip’, that
was where the boats went into the river, up opposite the Jail road. Fishing for
eels, we’d dig up the worms and put them in a jam jar full of clay, but Michael
wouldn’t put the worms on the hook, that was my job.
On Lough Gill. We’d be up early in
the morning getting ready to ‘head up the lake’, Mam would be making the
sandwiches while we’d be grabbing the breakfast and ‘getting the boats ready.
“I’ll bring up the oars and the engine while you bail out the boat”.
‘Up’ was up to the ‘Steps’ - the gaps in the wall where the boats sat in the river.
As the years went on, we got
our own boats and engines, Michael had a white 8 HP Honda 4-stroke engine that
didn’t burn oil, unlike my 1½ HP 2-stroke Seagull that did. I loved the smell
it left in its wake, Michael was already more environmentally conscious, even
way back when I didn’t know what that meant.
‘Where’ll I meet ye for tea?’ was
a common conversation.
‘I’ll see ya on White Shore,’ was
all that was needed. White Shore is at the top of the lake, a long way up. That
We’d head when we were ready, up
the river, through the Narrows and out onto the lake. I might head up the back
of Beezie’s island, around by Goat island into Benowna bay, then cut across the
Sandy ridge at Church island, out past the Cormorant rocks and up Corwillick.
Michael might head up the Shellhouse, hit out to Perr Rock from the Castle
Point and up through the Rookeries.
If I was in first, I’d be
gathering the sticks. He’d come in and start lighting the fire. Smokey tea from
the black kettle, boiled on the fire, and Mam’s sandwiches. Hanging out with
your big brother, doing what we loved. That was the life.
When we’d be pushing out the
boats after the tea, we’d part with, ‘I’ll see you when we get down’. ‘Down’
was back home off the lake.
Back at the steps in the evening
it’d be, ‘I’ll bring down the engines and oars while you tie up the boats.’
* * * *
A friend – someone who may or may
not be there when you don’t need them but is always
there when you do. That was Michael and me.
I have two oak trees in my back
garden that commemorate Mam and Dad’s passing. Mam’s one is over 15ft tall and
Dad’s is about 10ft. Michael grew them from acorns.
I have a chestnut tree in my front
garden. The conversation went, ‘Ah sure take it, or it’ll die. It’s a native
species, not like those two red oaks you have at your gates’. He could talk ya
into anything. So there’s a chestnut tree in my front garden. It’s been
struggling since it went in but I suspect it’ll thrive from now on. Now,
suddenly, it’s my commemoration for him.
* * * *
Michael and me loved our music, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan were high on the list. We loved fantasy and science fiction, the Lord of the Rings was high on that list. Ken and me picked three songs, one from Cohen, one from Dylan and one from the Lord of the Rings.
Cohen’s ‘Alexandra Leaving’
depicts the Lord of Love hoisting his friend up on his shoulders, to carry her
home. I liken his depiction to what’s happening here today:
Michael hoisted on his shoulders
They slip between the sentries of
Michael and me did the ‘Plans of the House’ for Carrie and me. Who else? We knew what we wanted, he helped us build our dream home and helped make our dreams come true.
Dylan describes Michael and me eloquently:
I could make you happy, make your
dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends of the Earth for
To make you feel my love
The last song ‘Into the West’, from the closing scene of the Lord
of the Rings, covers the last thing I’ll say today for Michael and me. Annie
Lennox will do it justice, I’ll leave you with a few of the more poignant
Your sweet and weary head
night is falling
You have come to journey's end
And dream of the ones who came
They are calling
From across the distant shore
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again