COFFEE AT ELEVEN
A very dear friend of mine died on this day 17 years ago. He was 96, a great age as they say, but I still miss our chats and the times we spent together. When he died, I formed a tiny committee that set out to erect a plaque in his memory. We aimed to raise €2,000 but reached €10,000 within a couple of months and had to ask people to stop making donations. We already had too much money. Instead of a plaque, we commissioned a two-metre tall sculpture in limestone and bronze and made a donation to his favourite charity in Africa.
I sometimes think that his coffee was exceptional not because of the milk, or the brand of coffee, or how it was heated, but because it had a special ingredient of conversation with an old friend who, like too many of my friends, I knew more about after he died than when he was alive. People pass on without us learning more about them because we don't know the right questions to ask, or because we keep meaning to but don't. Life is just like that.
The kitchen that we chatted in so often is no more, vandals made sure of that when they wrecked the inside of the monastery after the last brother left. But I can still hear his voice, reduced to a whisper from working for seventy years as a teacher. He started teaching at the age of sixteen and still taught a class a day until the age of 92. I remember the feel of his arm firmly linked around mine to keep him steady, because at night-time he was virtually blind. If I was asked to nominate someone that I've known in my life for sainthood, then it would be him.
So, on his anniversary I always try to treat myself to a Br O'Brien Coffee and remember, if only for a few moments, a very special friend. There are worse ways to be remembered.
Keywords: anniversary, br o brien" monastic monastery, brigown, bronze, christian brother, diarmaid, diarmaid o briain, good, ireland, limestone, mitchelstown, o briain, remember, saintly, sculpture
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