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Afternoon Among Friends.

June 23, 2009

liam says…I had a wonderful afternoon. A few days ago, Anna Mae asked if I could stop in to Cureeny Church and put up a flyer for the Active Retirement trip being planned for August. It would be the perfect chance to run into the church, pin up the flier and light a candle for my father. I was glad to do it, and today I had a little time to visit my little country church before heading to Toor to visit my cousin Mary and her son Tim.

It was a bit blustery, but still there was a brightness in the sky as I turned at Cureeny Cross on my way to the church. As I passed Mick’s cottage, now abandoned and going to ruin, I remembered the great hoolie I hosted at Knockahopple Cottage almost 15 years ago. Mick was there, and I he pulled me aside and thanked me again and again for inviting him to an “old fashioned hoolie.” It was Mick’s last party before he passed on.

Flyer pinned… candle lit… and heading for the door… I turned and saw through the window a tombstone on the hill in the cemetery with my old friend Katie’s name on it. A flood of memories came back to me.

Katie was one of the first of the Auld (old) people I met years ago. She was truly from another time. I have great memories visiting her in her little cottage in the Vale of Cooneen. For a moment, I could hear her infectious giggle. I hadn’t heard it in years, but the sweet sound was just as clear in my head as if she were standing in the doorway with me.

I paused for a moment and thought, “before I go, I will just walked up into the cemetery and visit my Auld friend and say a prayer for her.” I stood at Katie’s tombstone and imagined the timeline of my knowing her. I started with the day I met her and she held my hand as she informed me that I wasn’t the first person to come over from America to visit her. Every visit came back to my mind. The last day I saw her, I had stopped in at the nursing home. She grabbed my arm and announced to all the seniors in the day room, “Now, my friend came from America to give us a song. Liam, what will you sing for us.”

The snowy breasted pearl still in my head, I smiled, and looked a few headstones over. Mick’s final resting place. He would like a visit as well. From there I caught sight of Gerard’s stone. Oh, the hell he must have caught from his mother-in-law Mary when he and I stumbled home from the pub early one morning, both of us singing and laughing all the way down Knockahopple Road… it was Ash Wednesday afterall. He was taken from us young from Motor Neuron Disease (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

From there, it was Rita’s grave and Mary’s and Jim’s and Eileen’s… the Dawson Brothers… all three of them are gone now… and so on and so forth. So many memories and so much laughter. Then it hit me. All these people were gone… some close friends… some just neighbors… but all influential in turning my dream of Knockahopple Cottage into what it came to be.

Time marched on and continues to move. Faster… and faster… and faster. How was it that I now know nearly as many people in the graveyard as I do at mass on Sunday? These people have been a part of my life and my dreams for over a quarter of a century. Where did the time go?

Walking back to the car, I felt a great sense of peace. Here I was in the middle of Ireland in this beautiful spot visiting all these friends… all together and all gone on… some old… some way too young… but all friends. As I drove away, I quietly spoke, “Godspeed to you and may you all rest in peace.” In the distance, I heard Katie giggle.

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