Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, Ireland, September 2011.

We’d left the church by that stage. Survived the hymns and the prayers and the handshakes. You’d think that after a two-day-wake there’d be no more hands left to shake.

We’d survived the pressure of the reading of the Ecclesiastes 3. A time to be born and a time to die. And the eulogy by Dad at the end of the Mass. The one that made us laugh as well as cry. The one that got a rousing ovation in that packed church. On that Sunday. In that September. We’d survived all of that. All that was left now was the cemetery. The drive there. The burial. The drive back.

If you don’t know Tubbercurry you won’t know that you can get to the graveyard a couple of ways. You can drive up the N17 towards Galway and take a sharp right turn about a mile out of town. That’s the way most people go on their final journey. Or you can take a much earlier right just after the police station and then a left at the school. If you go that way you pass our house. So that’s the way the hearse went that Sunday afternoon. In that September.

We must have been a few cars back. When the hearse pulled up at the house for those final seconds, we found ourselves just at the junction where you turn down to what used to be Basta. I don’t recall now whose idea it was. That we turn around and go the other way. Get ahead of the cortège and have prime place at the grave site. But turn around we did. And as we drove back up the Ballina Road to turn onto the N17, Ronan pressed play.

No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
At the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away

 We sat in the car. On that Sunday. That September. And we listened. To a song we’d probably heard many a time before. But hadn’t listened to. Not before.

We played it on repeat. It’s a short song. So we might have listened to it two or three times more before we got to the graveyard. And we were among the first to arrive. Which, in retrospect, was probably a good thing. Because we had two men in the car who were on the list of pallbearers. A son and a not quite son-in-law. Sharing the burden with other men. A husband, another son, a son-in-law, nephews and friends. Men who had loved her.

The burial went quickly. Quicker than planned. The weather turned just before the rosary. A localised storm – affectionately recorded for posterity as Hurricane Maureen – came rolling through. And we dispersed. To rattling umbrellas. And cars. And made our way to Killorans for grub and what would become known forever as “Grandma’s party.”

We played the song again in the car on the way back. And again in the days and weeks that followed. I listened to it umpteen times on the plane back to Melbourne. Later that September.

And the weeks turned into months. The months turned into years. Eleven of them now. Eleven mostly happy years where the clouds dissipated a little with each passing year. You still notice the clouds these days. But you notice the rainbow too.

And you can listen to that song now. This Sunday. Any Sunday. In this September. Or any September. With a gin and tonic. With a slice, but no ice.

And the course of a lifetime runs.
Over and over again.


*Originally published in 2019 on The Thank You Blog.

Stereo Story #668

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Maria is the author of The Thank You blog. "I have been living in Williamstown, (Victoria, Australia) for a number of years, where I mostly procrastinated. I have recently returned to my roots in Sligo, Ireland, where I will likely continue to procrastinate."