11 March 2015

The Universe listened, & sent me to Clontarf

Even though Larry’s death was expected, and his suffering in the months before had been appalling, nothing prepared me for the final goodbye.

I wanted everything, other people, small events, international news, the entire world, to just stop. There was no point to anything.  Auden’s “Funeral Blues” now made perfect sense. 

Old familiar novels, inspirational writings & the thoughts of people like David Whyte & Caroline Myss, helped me enormously.

Music helped too of course. Who can live without Vivaldi?  Mozart, Maria Callas & the rest of the biggies. The Eagles, Bowie, Roxy Music, Neil Young. It all depended on the mood of the day.

I watched TV, especially programmes about travel, and anything that involved courage. Step forward Bear Grylls.  I did a trek in Mongolia in 2012 in aid of Help for Heroes.  Bear, a true hero, reminds me of the courage I needed then, the respect I had for the Nomads, possibly descendants of Genghis Khan, who knew the terrain and kept us safe.

I'm in the Orange top
But despite memories of my own survival skills and my best efforts now to stay positive and move forward, it didn’t work. The heartbreak was just too much.

Bleak days dawned, one after the other. May days, summer days, mostly sunny. In June they got longer and longer. Did I care? I did not.

A profound sadness took over.

Blackness settled and would not leave. I wanted to detach myself from the world, to confront this melancholy. But there simply wasn’t time.

Because Widowhood means Administration. Lots of it.

Cold, official correspondence arrived. Every day, something needed to be addressed. Documents covered desk and table. With little energy to tackle the mountain of paperwork, I thought I might go stark raving mad.

Why does the world continue to turn? I wondered.  Has the Creation forgotten Jane? Doesn’t the Universe care? 

But the Universe did care, had minded me, guided me, and put me in exactly the right place to face this challenging time.

Organising our return from France back in 2012, some intuition told me Clontarf was the place.

There’s a seaside village feel here, with shops, chemist, hairdresser, restaurants, dry cleaners all owned and staffed by some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.

The sea, the wooden bridge, the ladies bathing shelter, the long beach, the dunes, all familiar territory, loved and enjoyed by generations of Dubliners. Most days, I crossed the bridge, walked the beach. The light, whether blue or grey sky, silver horizon, kite surfers whizzing along the waves all created a kaleidoscope of colour.

High summer brought high spirited teenagers; not waiting to get to the beach, they leaped, shrieking, off the wooden bridge at full tide. Being part of the energetic life of the beach, if only as a spectator for the moment, did me a power of good.

Dollymount beach has quiet places too. It’s possible to see the city, yet hear only birds. Tiny birds.

Two days after Larry’s death, early on the morning of the service and cremation, I walked down to the dunes, where the larks sing.

One flew higher, sang louder than the others.

Even on such an appalling day, Larry had the ability to make me smile. Memories of conversations during the previous months, about what, if anything, happened after death. 

“Well, not re-incarnation” he said, “unless I come back as something really great, like a Golden Eagle.”

I looked up, tried to spot the tiny lark, singing his heart out.

“Is it you, Buddy?” I asked, aloud.


  1. Thank you Jane for another moving episode. You've painted such evocative pictures for us, the Clontarf vignettes, the tiny little things that brought even a momentary touch of brightness into the dark realms of your heart and soul. I loved where you said you enjoyed, however briefly, the life on the beach even if only as a spectator ... your honesty and courage shines through all the way, telling us about the TV programmes that helped pass some time for you and, of course, the music which uplifted your spirits, again however briefly. The pictures are lovely and you look FAB Ms Shortall in *orange* on your horse in Nepal ... Well Done on that journey Jane ... and indeed all of it. It was harrowing and awful and stark and so very sad. And I know that it still goes on ... Couragio Signora and may Larry always be your *golden eagle* ...
    As always ... Mary S :)

  2. Had we corresponded six years ago when Roger died, I like to think you might have been the one who could have said something that suited the occasion. That's a truly wonderful essay above, and it might have saved my writing so much gloomy poetry--the only relief I seemed to be able to find.
    Of course, the lark was message for that day, to be remembered for all those to come.