“After work tonight, I have to get me-dad some dog food,” our taxi driver says in his heavy Irish accent. “He no longer drives or carries thee bags.”
This jolly-fellowed man knows his Dublin. Sitting next to my husband Bill, I rest into the cab’s backseat, listening to the driver’s melodic words. The cab seems to be sailing us from the airport to our hotel, and we turn our heads at the driver’s beckoning to note landmarks he describes with pride a-glowing.
I’m relaxed, restored. And Dublin with its unencumbered cityscape, stately and solid, invites me to be at home. After our three days in London, I’m ready to respond and search this lovely land, having been loosed from the tension tightening within me over the past few months.
Something had happened in London while Bill and I were sitting in the Phoenix Theater, enraptured by the play Blood Brothers. The musical by Willy Russell is the story of two brothers, twins, separated at birth. By curtain’s end when death prevailed, a flood of tears overwhelmed me. It was unimpeded crying, a force rebelling from being buried too long. It was the sobbing one only releases in private. Except that I was in the middle of a London theater, knowing no one but Bill. While we stood to give our Bravo! applauses, I wept and I gasped at times by its mighty force.
Bill understood. Our past seven months had been emotionally tumultuous. Our own reality was as heartbreakingly dramatic as the play’s. Across the Atlantic in the center of America, our family had faced the riveting reality that one son, 24, was diagnosed with brain cancer. The oncologist’s time stamp gave him three years. Another son who had signed up for the National Guard had just completed his basic training. The Iraqi War had the Army calling in all of its resources. That young son, 19, could be called in at anytime now. I could be the mother at the end of the play.
Ironically I had kept a stiff upper lip as any a Brit would do because I had to appear strong for these two young men. Only now, with distance could I face my most vulnerable self. Traveling does that for us. It lifts us up and away so we can look back with a new perspective, more focused, thus, strengthened as a result. By my stepping away from the daily grind of living, I realized how I was in a simply-surviving-mode. And only I could choose to remove my automaton covering to feel again, live again.
Up and down the streets of London, the architecture spoke its history and I related. We’re a people who survive and rebuild . . . with the beauty of hope, or so tells St. Paul’s Cathedral. And much like one being freed from a prison in the Tower of London and Big Ben ticking off the hours in our lives, I can live straight and tall and strong, going forward, freely living forward.
Those familiar sights from my art history books offered the perfect prelude to the simple, yet grand, landscape of Ireland. Ireland’s trying past with its life and death has cultivated beautiful souls, lovely throughout. Ireland invited me into its arms of rolling lush land with verdant gardens to captivate me. One garden with its statue of Oscar Wilde lounging on a rock still makes me laugh. In that same Merrion Square Park is a bust of Michael Collins. Who can measure the impact of one life? I sat with the monks from 800 AD, viewing the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Priceless.
On one of the last mornings our tour bus led us out of Dublin into the elegant estate of Powerscourt. Every inch of the 19 hectares (47 acres) breathes growth with its flowers and fountains, a rose garden, Italian garden, Japanese garden, even a pet cemetery. We had lunch at Johnny Fox’s Pub, established in 1798. And more tears welled up when I saw on their walls life-sized shadow boxes. One had a NYPD uniform; the other a NYFD uniform. Their 9/11 bravery honored.
Yes, this life with death brings heartaches. But if we live vitally, courageously, our hearts pump stronger. Nine years later, the young son works with computers. The older son with brain cancer is healed and is an oncologist. His faint headband scar is a reminder of hope for others and each of our days with Big Ben’s ticking off time. And what will we do with that time? Be grateful, strong, hopeful our histories will one day inspire others to live richly, kindly, lovingly, heartily.
Sometimes it takes an ocean to see.
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