Eilis Blog 3

Wednesday August 1st 2012

Dia daoibh, I hope the holidays have been treating you well because I know for sure the weather hasn’t!

A lot has happened since you’ve last read my article the most significant being the passing of my Granda, James O’Kane known locally as Big Jim. The reason I’ve chosen to dedicate this article to him is because he has played such an influential part in my life. Having been gifted with good health right throughout his life it wasn’t until the gracious age of 83 that he first needed to face a hospital. Having lost his dear wife 37 years ago he went on to raise 8 children single handily. I don’t really mean single handily as he was a really religious man and believed God was always with him. He prayed at least three times a day and was a great believer in the Rosary and was fully confident that God was always with him. Having been taught the Catechism at school he continued to practice these beliefs right up to his death, he was a great believer in visiting the sick and burying the dead. I recall on numerous occasions going with him and visiting various friends and family on a Sunday afternoon. He loved to call and reminisce about the days gone past, informing people of dates, place names and had a particular interest in poetry and song.

Having left education at the tender age of 14 he went straight into employment, working for different farmers serving periods as long as 6months away from home. What surprised me was his ability to count and spell; he could have recited any poem he learned while at school giving a picture clear image of the classroom with his ability to detail. A very intelligent man by nature he took great pride in keeping his home neat and tidy, everything having its own place. Having spent time working away from home at the Hay Harvest in England in his youth he and his friends would meet together on a Sunday and cycle to the nearest Church where they get Sunday Mass and receive communion.

I would describe him as a true gentleman in every aspect.  I recall walking down the main street in the local town and him insisting that I walk on the inside for the purpose of my own safety so that he was nearest the road. His traditional customs and routines made him such a likable character and he had an immediate impact on the people he met. Not a material man, he never wanted bigger or better things nor complain when the going got tough. Everyone was equal in his eyes irrespective of whether you had a lavish lifestyle or were scraping by with just enough to do.

Being very self-sufficient he lived happily in the family home taking great pride in welcoming new families into his local area often visiting to deliver a bag of potatoes, turf or tea bags, resources that are undervalued items in the home. This of course reinforces the motto ‘Céad Míle Fáilte’ which is on display in many homes around the country but I can safely say no one has put these words into practice as effectively as my Granda.

Although he had been quite unwell from Christmas of this year, he always kept abreast and interested in the life of all his 31 grandchildren. I was fortunate to be able to call with him on a regular basis. He would have told me stories of his childhood and was always conscious of my safety while playing sports, training and socialising after dark. While applying for the Michaela Foundation I was asked to state who has been most influential in my life and who I am inspired by, the answer being none other than Big Jim himself.  When I received the good news of having been selected as a recipient it was with great joy for me to inform him. He was immensely proud of me and as I revealed to him that he played a meaningful part in my application process emotions were high leading him to shed a tear.

It wasn’t until the wake and funeral that I became aware the extent to which he was valued in the community. People and friends gathered to pay their respect each having their own stories and tales on Granda and it was nice to know that he touched the lives of so many others. Granda did not fear death at all and wished for a peaceful passing into the next world and that it what he got on the evening of June the 22nd in the family home surrounded by loved ones. What made it so remarkable was that we had just finished saying the Rosary before God took him away to his rest. At the age of 85 he lead a decent hard working life strengthened by his belief in God and rich with experience. Although I would have liked for him to have been around for another number of years, all good things must come to an end and what remains now are fond memories and the knowledge that he is watching over us graciously.

A very fitting tribute was paid to him on the day of his funeral by his eldest son reciting one of his favourite poems ‘The Grillagh Waters’ By Mick Mc Atamney.

Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam uasal.