Farewell Uncle Henry!

Just found out my Uncle Henry, from the Canadian branch of the family, one of life’s true quiet gentlemen and a A+ first grade go to the top of the class Uncle has died 🙁

Although this was not unexpected as he had been ill for a while, death puts an indelible full stop on the pages of all the lives it touches and the finality of life’s adventure ending for someone you know and love always comes as as shock.

It seems oddly fitting that only a few months ago he was on a visit to Ireland and the UK and was sat on my mother’s sofa and we were disccusing art, walking and tech in the usual gloriously disjointed and tangential way that McDonagh conversations have a habit of flowing. This can be a bit of a shock for some people but Uncle Henry even though our meetings were well spaced out in time did as he usually did and slipped right back into the Irish branch of the family as if the years and 1000’s of miles between meetings did not exist.

When my cousins let me know Uncle Henry has died I remembered my own father, now 30+ years dead. Dad had cancer and was being looked after at home by my Mum and I was nursing at the time and would come up on my days off and take “the night shift”. Coversation turned one night to the elephant in the room and I asked him “Are you scared?” He did not answer for a moment and the replied with a simple “Yes” and we moved onto another topic. The next day he handed me a piece of paper on which was a poem he hoped would explain his feelings and would help me understand. Over the years these words have stayed with me and came echoing back to me as I heard that my Uncle had died. It is a short poem and expresses eloquently a life well lived that is as apt for Uncle Henry as it was for my Dad.

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
I have sent up my gladness on wings, to be lost in the blue of the sky.
I have run and leaped with the rain, I have taken the wind to my breast.
My cheek like a drowsy child to the face of the earth I have pressed.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I have kissed young love on the lips, I have heard her song to the end.
I have struck my hand like a seal in the loyal hand of a friend.
I have known the peace of heaven, the comfort of work done well.
I have longed for death in the darkness and risen alive out of hell.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I give a share of my soul to the world where my course is run.
I know that another shall finish the task I must leave undone.
I know that no flower, nor flint was in vain on the path I trod.
As one looks on a face through a window, through life I have looked on God.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
Amelia Joesphine Burr

So with that I raise a glass and toast – Farewell Uncle Henry and here is to a life well lived!

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