Padraig’s death was a thunderbolt. He was a young, fit man, full of life and strength. More than that, he lit our staff room with his good humour, which we treasure so much in Ireland, his love of “craic”. And suddenly with no warning, Padraig was gone. His light was extinguished in the home, the school, the parish and the community.
All of us tried to make sense of his death.
Irony followed irony. A surprise party had been planned for him that evening for his birthday. More importantly by far, his son Darragh had been given an optimistic health report. It had seemed that light was dawning after a long darkness of sorrow and anxiety. Over the days of his funeral and burial, all of us tried to make sense of his death. We tried to rationalise it as part of God’s plan to our grieving students, to our friends, to ourselves. But the sorrow and bewilderment could not be dispelled. We thought of the inexplicable deaths of thousands of victims of terrorism, of famine, or injustice, even of everyday accidents. But the vision of a sea of pain does not lessen the sharpness of individual sorrow. Padraig’s death hurt. It still does.
The teacher who set tough standards.
But if it affected us, his colleagues, so deeply, it was all the more hurtful in its effect on our students. He was a much-loved man. Not popular in a cheap sense of pandering to student demands, but loved and respected even by those he had to discipline. He did his job with that delicate balance between encouragement and restraint, which is the mark of a good teacher. The students under his charge saw in him the strict leader, the man who tolerated no nonsense, the teacher who set tough standards. But they also recognised the understanding and compassion, the loyalty of a real friend, and above all the fairness, the justice to all and they admired him deeply for it.
The greatest lost of all is to Jamie, his wife (our colleague as well) and to their four young sons: Darragh, Sean, Eoghan and Paul. We watched in agony as Jamie struggled to survive that huge wave of sympathy which engulfed her during Padraig’s funeral and burial and we all know that this marvelous outpouring of genuine concern (and it was extraordinary) can only last so long. After the high emotion of those days comes the return to reality and the loneliness. Padraig is gone, and can never be replaced.
There is little we can say to Jamie and her children. Perhaps some day in the future, if she sits and looks over these pitiful words, she will think with pride of her husband and the way he affected all of our lives. Hopefully she can draw some consolation from the concluding lines of Christina Rosselli’s poem “ Remember” which I like to think Padraig could have said as a final message – “ Do not grieve, for if the darkness and corruption leave a vestige of the thoughts that once I had, better by far you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad”.
Note: Taken from “The Oughterard Newsletter” March 2002