I think there were none of us who are 55+ who were not saddened by the death of Cilla Black. There was a whole fleet of British women singers in the sixties and seventies who we all fancied and used to watch and listen too, and whose memory is firmly rooted in our minds. It is strange how when I heard Cilla Black had died I thought also of Dusty Springfield, died March 1999 and Sandy Shaw, who is still going strong at 68.
My reaction to her songs was odd. When we hear them now we almost cringe at the fact that we used to like them. We forget that they were the songs of the age and compare them to the more mature music we like to listen to now. But in the late sixties we were silly little teenagers who thought we knew everything and that we were the centre of the world.
‘Her Indoors’ is now a widow
Then we learnt that Arthur Daily has driven off into the sunset in Terry’s Ford Capri. Do you remember the Capris? I had one of them when I was about 23, and boy, did I think I was the bees-knees. I loved the way he referred to the wife as ‘her indoors.’ She was never seen, always offstage, but always a part of the plot, if only for the limiting effect she had on Arthur’s behaviour.
Arthur Daly was what we would all like to be: a bit outside the law but no so far as to cause ourselves too much bother. He was the classic likeable rogue who could stay just that half-step ahead of the law.
What do we learn?
Does the death of Cilla Black and Arthur Daly, people we don’t even know by their real names, tell us anything about ourselves?
I think they really do. First of all it tells me that my life is not just what I am living now but that all those songs, people, events and friendships that I have had in the past are still a big part of what I am. We can’t hear Cilla Black or watch Arthur Daly without feeling a host of other emotions that we associate with that period of our lives.
The years we have lived, the decisions we have made and our reactions to the events around us have all come together to shape the person we are today. We have built our personalities during our lifetime by the choices we have made. Those of us who have chosen to hold resentments have become resentful, those of us who don’t trust people have chosen to see the worst in them. A lot of us have made our own crosses, one piece of wood at a time.
A wise old priest
One of those modern type atheists, you know, the sort that are so full of themselves that their glory shines out of their backside, approached her PP and indignantly said; “I don’t remember all the sermons that I have heard preached over the years. How could they have had an effect on me if I don’t remember them?”
“Tell me,” said the old PP after a moment’s reflection, “What did you have to eat on your 23rd birthday?”
“I have no idea,” said the woman, “What relevance has that?”
“Well,” said the priest, “The food you ate that day sustained you and became part of you. Although you don’t remember it, that food has gone towards making you what you are today. It is the same with sermons; you may not remember them specifically but they have all been heard and assimilated and are part of what you are now.”
It is the same with Cilla and Arthur Daly, they remind us of some of the events that had gone into the making of this wonderful creature that is me. All of us have a life story, a history, and all of those events and experiences are part of what we are.
The annual pilgrimage
On the same day as Cilla went to the great audition in the sky, I and a couple of thousand others, headed down to Coalisland for the annual pilgrimage to the graves. What a wonderful tradition that has developed in our land in these past few years. I stood at my sister’s grave next to people who had travelled up from Dundalk and I met a man, Kieran Morgan, who had been at Mass on Sunday morning at his parish chapel in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, and decided that he was going to drive up to stand at the grave of his parents and to pay his respects.
There is something deeply Irish and deeply spiritual about standing in the graveyard remembering our dead. In an age where the things of God are mocked and his glory ignored why do the majority of people still come out to remember their dead?
The reason is very simple; it is written into our DNA, into the very heart of our being, that there is an afterlife and even though we are still here living and well, there is that part of us that is still in contact with those who have gone before us. It is called love, the love that never dies.
God always wins
I remember the beginning of the tradition of the Cemetery Sunday in our land. Many of the new chapels were being built away from the graveyards and people were saying that families would never visit the graves. This also coincided with the dramatic decrease in the number of people attending Sunday Eucharist.
In order to make sure that the graves were visited and kept reasonably tidy someone came up with the idea of Cemetery Sunday. It has had the effect that it was intended to have—people visit the graves at least once a year and at least once a year the graves are cleaned and tidied up.
Standing in the graveyard last week, looking around at faces of people paying respects to their dear departed, it dawned on me that this once a year ritual has probably had more effect on people than a weekly visit to the graveyard. The fact that this is now a religious, family and social ritual forces people to think what they are doing and why they are there.
Wonderful how what people thought of a sign on the demise of the Church has turned into something that God uses to make us think.
As usual I’m in a minority
Then I read during the week that I am, as usual, in the minority. The BBC reported that 58% of us in Northern Ireland want to stay in the EU while only 16%, including me, want to leave. The rest haven’t made up their minds.
All of this could lead to interesting times on the old political front. What if we want to stay in the EU, Scotland wants to stay in the EU and the ‘little Englanders’ decide to vote us out of it, what do we do then—have a UK that is playing the hokie-pokie with the rest of Europe, one foot in and one foot out.
This could be another kick in the teeth for the relationship between Scotland and England. I don’t like the EU, I am a natural socialist and don’t like big business; there is just something repulsive about the way the big man treats the rest, and Greece is as good an example of this as you could possible get. Here the money people have become more important than the ordinary man on the street and there is something abhorrent about that.
Hold on to your house!
God, but some things you read in the paper turn your gut. A woman in Dublin was left homeless after Dublin City Council’s credit card reached its limit.
“The case of a woman and her three children left without emergency accommodation because a credit card used by Dublin City Council’s homeless service had reached its limit has been described as an "inhumane" situation.
The Department of the Environment said the card used by the council’s Central Placement Service had reached its maximum limit due to the "significant volume of families" presenting as homeless on a daily basis.
The woman was in the scheme called, "self-accommodation" clients, where they book hotel rooms themselves using the card. On Wednesday, the mother and her children slept at an industrial estate in Finglas, because the credit card she had been given had maxed out.”
The report went on to say that the number of homeless families in Dublin have doubled in the past year. Funny, we don’t hear any mention of this on the TV or radio when we are hearing all the bull about how good the Free State is doing and how the economy has turned.
The weather hasn’t turned
‘The coldest July in 22 years’ ran the headlines last week. The weather has led to some interesting debates. After Mass on Sunday we were standing at the door chatting to friends and the question came up: Is this bad weather a continuation of last winter or an early autumn?
We laughed at the question and there was divided opinion among us all. The pessimists, who have forgotten that there were quite a few good days earlier on this year, said it was an extension of last winter. The realists said it was an early autumn; I said it is what it is and we will have an Indian summer and a great September/October.
A nice hobby we has!
But the weather does not make all that much difference to me, I am not affected by it that much, I can sit in on a summer’s evening and read my book. Mrs Q and I have developed a nice hobby in the few years that we have enjoyed wedded bliss. We buy a couple copies of the same book and sit in the evenings and read them. Mrs Q reads one paragraph and then I read the next and if we want to discuss anything in the paragraph we sit for a while and chat about it.
A book in Casa Turlough lasts a long time!
The current book we are reading is called “The God of Ordinary People” and it is by Fr Sean Caulfield, the Irish priest who has spent his life in the US and who also wrote “In Praise of Chaos” which I have mentioned earlier in the column. The chapter yesterday evening, Saturday, was called ‘Grief and Letting Go,’ and was addressed to those who have lost loved ones, i.e. everyone.
Fr Caulfield is direct and forceful in how he writes, his aim is to make us think. Here is quite a long but very beautiful quote from his book. I found it moving and touching. I have broken one long paragraph intp three shorter ones for clarity:
“We have our memories, of course, but memory is a tricky thing. It is a blessing to have happy memories. Yet memories are always a selection we make from the past. They are not the reality. The reality was something and someone vastly greater.
The danger lies in constructing a memory and unconsciously accepting it as the whole of what the past has been. The problem is not in having memories but in making them the whole of our reality. If we grieve for a divorced or deceased person, we should remember that the person has gone into our future no one who has been loved is entirely lost.
The future reign of God, our only future, will restore the love. The person we love no longer lives in the past of dead memories, but resides in our future. The dead have not abandoned us. They are coming towards us as we go forward to meet them.”
What a wonderful way to look at the death of those whom we have loved, they are in our future, waiting on us to join them, watching out for us and caring for us. The poor old atheist has nothing to compare to this, their world view is that we live and die and that is the end of it; we are freaks of nature who somehow have learnt right from wrong but at the end of the day we are just like cats and dogs, we die and that is the end of us.
When you think of it, such an image of mankind does not give us great dignity or honour: essentially all life is meaningless and ends in the despair of total annihilation.
Children of a Loving God
Compare that to the image of the human being that the Church gives to us. We are uniquely special, chosen from all God’s creatures to share in His Divine Life, to be with him and all the people that we love for all eternity.
We are so special to God that he would do anything to save us, he will forgive any sin if only we ask. Now that sets us apart from the animals and gives us great dignity. When any atheist can give me a comparable vision of the human being then I shall consider what he says—until then I’ll go to Mass and follow the teaching of the Church.
You know when someone close dies and we begin to wonder whether or not they are in heaven, well Fr Caulfield writes this:
“There is nothing to feel guilty about. And wondering with anxiety about whether the person is in God’s good graces is something of a presumption. God is more powerful to save than people’s misbehaviour is to damn.” We should not pay judge on others.
Wow, what a line.
And finally finally…….
As I was writing that last bit I got a telephone call from my daughter in Hong Kong. She sent me to Facebook where I saw a photo of Irwin’s Nutty Crust along with soda and potato farls. The caption read:
“Look at this amazing haul of Irish bread found in a supermarket in Hong Kong today! It's my 9 years in Hong Kong anniversary and I'm eating Irwin's Nutty Crust (now called Irish Batch?). I feel like the luckiest person alive.”
God, but our children give us great joy!!
The views expressed are not necessarily those of the editor but are the views of the writer. Any comments, please submit to