“Daddy, Katie didn’t take off her shoes”.
The new trampoline was being treated with the utmost respect. The two girls were strictly enforcing the ‘no shoes’ rule – I’m not too sure about the ‘one at a time’ and the ‘no somersaults’ rules – but shoes were definitely a ‘no, no’
Several times during the following few days I was reminded of the burning bush, the taking off of shoes and sacred ground. We awoke on Tuesday morning to the news that a body had been found on a piece of green space in Cherry Orchard. A shotgun lay nearby. Gradually throughout the morning, news trickled through. Finally our worst fears were confirmed. Glenn, a twenty-five year old past pupil of The Life Centre, had ended his own life in the early hours of the morning.
We were numbed by the news. Glenn was an avid hunter and lamper1. He had a great love of animals and his back garden resembled a mini-zoo with horses dogs and caged birds. He was a wonderful father to his two young daughters and was very popular throughout the community.
1 Lamping: Hunting after dark with the aid of a strong torch which is used to dazzle rabbits, hares and, sometimes foxes. Once the prey is caught in the lamplight, a lurcher (typically a cross between a hound and a terrier) is released.
By evening time, a shrine had been erected on the spot where Glenn’s body had been found. Upwards of fifty teenagers and young adults had gathered to mourn their friend in their own way. The shrine was composed of bunches of flowers, photographs, trade-mark sunglasses, a blackthorn walking stick and other memorabilia. The entire shrine was encircled by stones set out in the shape of a heart. Ballads were played over a speaker and the young men stood around drinking cans, chatting, reminiscing and sharing stories of the good times. Every now and then a burst of laughter would break out. Two horses stood calmly by as if they knew of the tragedy that had happened at that spot some hours earlier.
I stood on the periphery of the group, not wanting to intrude and unsure as to what shoes I would have to remove before entering the sacred ground of their grieving. I needn’t have worried. I was welcomed in to the centre of the group and offered a can. It seems that “Come as you are” was the only requirement for entering that sacred ground.
The following morning, a different family in grief. I called to collect Tommy to take him to court. He knew a prison sentence awaited him. I remained sitting in the car as his two daughters, stars of the trampoline, said their tearful goodbyes to their Daddy and clung on for a last hug, a final kiss. I knew that there were no shoes that I could possibly remove that would allow me to intrude on the sacred ground of their leave-taking.
Today, the sacred ground was in Palmerstown Cemetery. A horse-drawn hearse, led by a lone piper, carried Glenn to his last resting place. His distraught mother dropped three red roses into the grave where two more of her sons are already buried. Balloons and white doves were released. Glen was at peace in the sacred ground.
This evening, I sat in the kitchen sharing a cuppa with Tommy’s partner, Amber. The cry came in from the back garden; “Mammy, Karen didn’t take off her shoes”. No use appealing to Daddy – his trampoline was the thin mattress in his prison cell.
Not an easy week – but a sacred one.
Let’s leave the last word to W.B.Yeats in “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”:
“But I, being poor, have only my
I have spread my dreams under
Tread softly, because you tread on
Read this and other stories from “Scribbles from the Margins” here <Scribbles Sept 15>
by Paul Hendrick