A Patrick’s Day Story

Six years ago this week, I was in Northern Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day. I must admit that it is a trip I will always remember. The parade down Hill Street in Newry featured floats and bands and thousands of people lining the streets.

I still have a photograph of a children’s accordion band, close to 70 members strong, marching down the street. Things were quite festive. The only difference was that there was no green beer. Thank goodness.

I hadn’t really planned this trip to Northern Ireland. It was a sudden decision to go because my father had passed away just a few days before.

I was there for the funeral, acting as a pallbearer and giving one of the readings at the mass. After the funeral and the burial, the family headed to the Riverside Quay, a restaurant on the banks of the quay for a lunch.

It was at this lunch I learned some interesting things about Dad’s life.

You see, he came to Canada in 1957 with two friends, Frank and Tommy. When I was born in 1960, Frank was my godfather at my christening. Frank moved back to Downpatrick a few years later and I lost touch with him.

It was during a visit to Northern Ireland several months before Dad’s passing that I was reacquainted with Frank, and the three of us, Frank, Dad and me, headed out on a day trip.

There were some great stories that day, many of them about coming to Canada in 1957 and the challenges of finding work.

Some of those stories were elaborated on after the funeral. Frank was there that day.

I lost touch again with Frank for six years after that day.

It was last week, when a fierce snowstorm closed roads, schools and shops in Northern Ireland that I decided to find Frank again. My aunt told me where he was.

The power was out; it was dark, cold and windy when Frank’s phone rang. We talked for about 30 minutes and each vowed to not let the other fall out of touch again.

This got me to thinking.

After hearing the cheeriness in Frank’s voice from a simple phone call, I learned something.

We can make a difference in people’s lives by a simple act. Whether it be a phone call, a few kind words or any gesture of kindness, we can have a huge impact on how people live their day.

Even though Frank’s power was out, the cold wind was howling in from the Irish Sea, and there was a large dump of snow outside the door, Frank was genuinely pleased that I had made the effort.

Even though the last time we saw each other was over a somber occasion, there was much to talk about in the years that have since passed.

The point here is that we don’t know how much time we have left, and the busyness of our days can sidetrack us from the things and people who are important in our lives. Don’t let these distractions stop you from reminding not only others, but yourselves of how important some people are in your life.

I guess I tell this story because my dad passed away around St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick himself was belief to have died at Downpatrick. Downpatrick happens to be where my dear friend and godfather Frank O’Connor lives.

This week, celebrate the joy in your life