My father was in hospital four days before he died. When he died I didn’t know I had so many tears. I cried a waterfall. My mammy pushed a hanky over towards me, and misunderstanding her kind gesture, I shouted at her, ‘Leave me be. Let me cry.’ My father’s dying was the first close death to me. This was life in the raw, and I had lived a life in monasteries, far removed from the ordinary day to day. Now, here, suddenly I am bereft of my beloved father. The day I left home, aged eleven, to go away into a seminary, my father had turned to my mother, as they went to sleep that night and said to her, ’Brian’s gone now.’ He had suddenly realised that the Church had taken his eldest son away from him and he had done nothing to stop it. Now death had come calling and I could not stop it. Now it was my turn to say, ‘My father has gone now.’
I see his prone body lying in death in the hospital bed. This is the image and the memory that comes to me today as I read the gospel words of Jesus – ‘ We are merely servants: we have done no more that our duty.’ Here lies the body of Michael Fahy, who was born in 1916, who left school at 14 and went down the pit to dig coal: who escaped into the British Army for six years and ended up doing twelve as war came along to interrupt his life: who went back down the pit he had escaped from to earn money for his young family: who was a very good footballer and who liked to follow the horses: whose health broke down and left him playing second fiddle in our house as mammy began her own career as nurse and matron to the elderly: whose final years were peaceful and contented in a little bungalow not far from where he was born.
He was a faithful servant and he did his duty. His great teaching to me, given one day as we supped good ale together, was ‘people should always be proper with one another.’ Proper was his word. It held everything in it. Upright, straight, honest, thoughtful, kind, patient, pleasant, forgiving: All these and more are to be found in my father’s word – proper.
There are many saints in the Christian calendar. My father and my mother head the list in mine. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have had such good parents. Like a horse my father once backed, I feel ‘So Blest’.
2 October 2022