Thank you all for your beautiful, kind and loving words, you’re the very best of friends.
I had the privilege of visiting my uncle in Australia a few years back, it was the best trip of my life. What a stunning country.
I remember sitting drinking coffee with him on the Melbourne shoreline and he pointed to a pier where, he told me, he had arrived from Ireland 40-something years before. I thought I was heroic just flying to Australia, but his journey, by ship, was interminable and grim. A young Irish man who’d never left home before, suddenly landed in this far-off land, he and his family assuming they’d never see each other again.
He was a priest, so I gave him a terrible time :-) But he was a liberal, and did his own thing – and stood up to the most vile pedophile-defending conservative Catholics in his part of the world. And he paid for it – but happily so.
I am so, so happy he lived to see Pope Francis, my last conversation with him … it was like he was almost content to let go, now that his Church was led by a man like that. He adored him, he made his heart sing. He laughed out loud when I said I was tempted to put a poster of the new Pope on my wall.
“Life’s funny, isn’t it girl?”
“It is, Uncle J.”
He lived an amazing life and did so much good. I didn’t know that until I visited his world, as I rambled around his parish I was flooded with stories of the wonderful impact he had on people’s lives, and how he fought for those crushed by authority. Their love for him was immense.
When I arrived in Melbourne we met up that evening. He had a meeting the next morning about dealing with a priest against whom sexual abuse allegations had been made. “Just do the right thing,” I said to him. “I will,” he promised. And he did. He stood strong, and he lost friends because of it. But he did the right thing.
His life was a story of doing the right thing from start to finish.
He was also a brilliant sportsman in his younger days. He won an All-Ireland medal, kind of the equivalent of the Super Bowl!
He gave his medal to my mother.
Tonight, she stroked it lovingly. I can’t begin to understand her sense of loss.
“Ma, he had a wonderful life.”
“He did,” she said, and then she stroked that medal again.
All I could do was hug her and love her.
May he rest in peace, my family will miss him so much.