Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Michael of Inis Oirr



In June of 2015, Harry, Elizabeth, Sandi and I engaged the services of this buggy driver to show us around the Aran island of Inis Oirr/Inisheer. It was a vintage buggy, pulled by a horse named Bob with a driver named Michael. Of the four or five other buggy drivers waiting  at the dock that day, Michael just looked the part.  Michael looked like he had been sent by Central Casting to be the perfect Gallic/Irish guide.   He had the round face of an Apple doll that hadn’t completely dried out yet. Michael was born, raised a family and lived his entire life on this Galway Bay island of 250 residents.  He retired from his career as a fisherman and was now literally a welcome wagon for visitors to his home. His lyrical accent made it sound like he was singing the words when he spoke.  In fact at one point he actually did sing to us.  As we traveled up a small hill Bob, the horse, released a loud and lengthy fart.  As the smell of digested hay reached our nostrils Michael began singing, “ Oh...The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind”.  

 Michael and Bob took us to the eastern shore of the island to the ghostly site of the Plassey Ship wreck. Grounded 100 yards inland lay the  rusting hull of the merchant ship Plassey.  Michael recalled a very bad storm as a child in the early 60’s that stranded the Plassey at that spot.  To say that Michael made an impression on us that day is an understatement.  This day would forever be etched into our memory.  

None of us would have thought,  four years later we would make a trip back to this very island to scatter Harry’s ashes.  

Harry’s death was sudden and unexpected. In his will he requested that his ashes be taken to Ireland and scattered by a couple of his close friends, and immediate family. This Ireland Ashes party of 9 included:  Elizabeth, Harry’s kids, Turk and Christy (Harry’s close friends) and my family. We met in Dublin, took the train to Galway and the ferry to Inisheer. We repeated stories of Harry along the way and observed signs pointing out the reason we were in Ireland.  Things would happen that seemed to have Harry’s celestial input.  Case in point: while all of us were  trying to find the bus station, to get to the ferry, we were led to this Galway mortuary.  


The busker who danced in front of Harry’s favorite pub wore black instead of her signature red outfit, 
and from an overcast day that threatened rain, the sun came shining through at the moment we set Harry’s ashes free on the rocky Inisheer beach. None of it was coincidental to those who knew Harry.  Eventually we just accepted everything as an occult “sign” .

Harry had specified his ashes be spread in Ireland but “where” in Ireland seemed to be up to Elizabeth, who was doing everything the way Harry would have wanted.  The Plassey ship wreck on Inisheer seemed a perfect place, because we had such a vivid memory of being there with Harry. It is also a very distinctive local landmark.  Elizabeth made plans to make that happen. 

On the ferry ride over, Elizabeth, Sandi and I discussed how perfect it would be if we could hire Michael to take us one final time to the Plassey ship wreck.  We docked and quickly scoured the buggy drivers to see if we could find Michael.  There were half a dozen buggy’s and drivers but no sign of Michael nor Bob the horse.  We had to settle for two other buggies to transport us to the shipwreck. 

Normally the buggy tour allows for a 10 minute stop at the ship wreck for photos.  We asked our drivers if they could stay for an hour while we said goodbye to our husband, father, godfather and best friend. When they realized the reason for this trip, the drivers were very reverent.  

It was a tougher job than any of us thought it would be.  Because the rocks were unstable,  just getting to the waters edge was a challenge.  It was also more emotional than we thought it would be. All of us had been to the previous four memorial services for Harry.  We erroneously thought this would just be one more, but we soon realized, it was the last one.  It is an indescribable scene watching Harry’s ashes linger in the water for a moment, and then to be swept forever away into Galway Bay. With not a dry eye in the party, the sun came busting through the over cast sky to project theatrical lighting on the occasion.  It was an exit Harry would have been proud of.  

The buggy ride back to the dock took some time, and our driver was very respectful of our silence and our questions.  I was thinking back to the time it was just me, Harry, Elizabeth and Sandi traveling this very road.  I thought of Michael and Bob “blowing in the wind”.  After a moment or two I said to our driver, “You must know a buggy driver named Michael.  His horse is named Bob.” 

 “Of course.” He said. 

I explained that Michael had been our tour guide the last time I was on this island with Harry... the person we had just put to rest. I also said Elizabeth, Sandi and I looked for him at the dock but he wasn’t there. We didn’t see him. 

“Everybody knows- him.. very nice man.” Said the driver.
“Does he still drive the buggy?” I asked. Then the driver said:

“Michael... just passed.” 

It was yet one more “coincidence” to Harry’s death. The street dancer dressed in black- the mortuary - the sunshine for the ashes ceremony -  And now one more “sign” our driver Michael also died.   I responded with some sad remark about losing friends. There was a moment of disconnect in the conversation. The young buggy driver realized - for some reason- we were not on the same page, 

He said, “No. No.  He just passed us....” as he pointed to another buggy which had just passed  by.  

Sometimes it’s not a sign..


“Be Seeing You”
My Friend.


As you were, 
Jay












1 comment:

Philip Grecian said...

That's lovely. Harry would be so proud.