I wake during the night to find myself crying. Reality dawns. Dad is dead. There’s a horrible moment of realisation that my parents are gone. I’m in Tipperary in one of our childhood beds. I’m not able for more crying. I go back to sleep.
The next time I stir, the dawn is breaking and the pigeons are cooing. The now-familiar heartache is lodged in my chest. The fingers of grief squeeze my heart, increasing the tension.
I’ve been here before and I know the process. Right now, I don’t want to move further away from Dad. I don’t want to forget his soft touch or his face creased with laughter with tears escaping from his eyes as he tells a well-worn yarn as if for the first time. We all knew the punchlines and yet we laughed heartily. He had a great way of embellishing a story.
It’s just two weeks since the death of John Campion. We gave him a very appropriate send off. It began with an intimate anointing of the sick by his beloved nephew Fr John Campion in his hospital room. Fr John and dad held each other’s hands and Fr John weaved the story of his life from the religious perspective, from baptism to marriage.
He highlighted his unconditional love and devotion to Maria, my mother, his guidance of us, his loyalty to mass, his kindness to his neighbours and his sense of community.
As Fr John anointed Dad with oil, I witnessed the peace come over the man and from that moment on he was calm. Over the next few days he became less and less responsive. Dad drew his last breath at 7.14am on 7 April 2022. Phil, Conor, Bernadine and I ensured that he was never alone during those last few days.
Fr John conducted all the funeral services beautifully. Children and grandchildren read and sang their hearts out. Dad’s party piece Boolavogue marked the end of the proceedings and then a group of men filled in the grave as is tradition in the parish. The soil hitting the coffin was somehow therapeutic. Thank you to everyone who helped us over the last two weeks.
Anytime there was a difficult situation Dad would say: “Stand back now and let the dog see the rabbit.” It always calmed the situation and gave time to assess it.
If he didn’t agree about something and wanted to dismiss an idea, he’d say: “That’s only Paddy-Joe-Mahockey stuff.” I never found out who he was but it meant there would be no further discussion on the matter.
Any small thing that didn’t have a name was called a “Jimmy-dog” And so on the precious, unique memories go. John was born in Bayswell, Johnstown, Co Kilkenny. He was an avid follower of Kilkenny hurling. When he married mam, he crossed the border to Tipperary and settled well in Moyne Templetuohy.
Since Mam died in 2004, we’ve had to hold his hand at times but he largely remained independent
He’d nearly shout for Tipp when his grandson Conor Bowe togged out for them. He was immensely proud of Conor but, to be fair, he was proud of his 12 grandchildren.
He followed their exploits and education with interest. He was thrilled to meet his first great grandchild, Ricky. As for the four of us – we could do no wrong such was his trust in us, his love for us and his pride in us.
My biological father Phil Bowe died when I was nearly two years old. I look at my grandson Ricky and try to imagine what that must have been like for my Cork-born mother. Two little children, myself and Phill, and alone in Tipperary.
Five years later, Maria and John married. I remember vividly his first evening with us. We walked down the lane with him to bring up the cows.
He had both of us by the hand, me on the right and Phil on the left. I felt secure and John has held our hands ever since. Conor and Bernadine came along and Dad had four children.
Since Mam died in 2004, we’ve had to hold his hand at times but he largely remained independent, supported every day by Phil and his family who lived next door.
Over the last week we’ve looked at photographs and remembered John. At the funeral people spoke of a great neighbour, a pleasant man, a character, a storyteller, a cut of bread and ham man. To us he was Dad.
RIP. Life will never be the same again.