My Irish cousin died the other day after a few months of illness. He was 84, a farmer, who farmed the ancestral farm, ReenoGreena, Glandore, County Cork. I met him and his wife, Anne, for the first time twenty years ago on my first visit to Ireland. He was at that time the age I am now. He had one grandson in particular who loved farming as much as he did, and I’m hoping his farming legacy continues through many future generations. For the brief moments I spent with Pat and Anne on my visits, I truly appreciated their down-to-earth demeanor and their ability to see through pretense. My mother was another soul who recognized pretense, and I believe she would have got on with them quite well. How can you not feel comfortable with folks who have no use for lofty pretense?
I watched Pat’s funeral service live-streamed from his parish in Ireland this morning. Normally, I have no use for traditional funeral masses as I have little use for the Catholic Church these days, but this experience surprised me. It was actually a beautiful ceremony. I’ve been to so many services that lack personality and the personal. His was not the case, his daughter Siobhan’s eulogy, even the priest’s words, captured the spirit of my cousin; upon reflection now I can see it soaring amidst the flying buttresses of that church. Although I didn’t know Pat well, I felt a peace and comfort hearing about his life of family, farm, community and church, his absolute faith in the miracle of baler twine and vise-grips as an all-purpose fix-it, not only for hay, but also for trousers in need of a belt or coats with broken zippers. To have lived an entire life, amidst the beauty of a familiar landscape on ancestral lands, surrounded by the stories and the people he shared that life with, ah, what a rich, full life indeed. Who cares about fame and fortune with a life like that? To hear that a local schoolboy, when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, answered with “a Pat Hurley,” fills me with a longing for a life that we Americans know far too little of.
”You can fix anything with baler twine and vise grips, and if you can’t, it’s not worth fixing.”
-Pat Hurley, ReenoGreena