My wife and I have never met our first child. We lost the baby during the pregnancy, in the early stages before we even knew for sure if it was a girl. But we both knew she was a girl. We named her Hannah Grace, and yesterday would have been her 16th birthday. Years ago I wrote about Hannah for an Irish magazine called 4you. I posted that article on the blog in 2018, and I’m reposting it today in honour of the daughter we look forward to meeting for the first time in Heaven.
It’s taking too long. That’s how I know my world is crumbling. The midwife can’t find what she’s looking for. She keeps trying, but every new effort is the ringing of steeple bells tolling a funeral. Not a formal, prepared, eulogised, dressed-in-black funeral. No, this is an impromptu affair, with no time to think, and no black shoes to look at as I stare at the floor. But I can’t just stare at the floor, people are talking to me. I have to concentrate to keep looking at them. I have to focus. It’s not their fault. They’re trying to help. I need to be polite and listen. What about my wife? She must be feeling the same as me. No, she must be feeling worse. After all, Hannah is still inside her. Hannah who we weren’t even sure was a girl (but we knew). Hannah who was a world of new life and dreams. Hannah who we have the little dress waiting for at home in a room right across the hall so we can hear her if she cries…
Continue reading Hannah’s Funeral
The wise man, with his flowing white beard, sits alone on top of a high mountain. The air is crisp and clear and the view is stunning, but he doesn’t see it. His eyes are closed in peaceful meditation. Nothing disturbs his solitude until the sound of footsteps announces the arrival of a wisdom-seeker. The sage remains seated, relaxed, as enigmatic (but deeply profound) answers fall slowly from his lips. As the footsteps of the now-satisfied (though slightly confused) intruder once again fade into the distance, the wise man resumes his silent reflection as if nothing had interrupted him.
Continue reading The Wise Man Is In Town
After the busy, noisy celebration of Christmas, the slower pace and restfulness of this week between Christmas and New Year’s is refreshing. But if the good news we just celebrated is true, then peace and rest mean much more than a temporary time of relief in our schedule. There is a peace and rest available to us that is deep enough to remain even in the most hectic times, and secure enough to withstand the most severe troubles. This peace and rest came to us because of Christmas, but they are not presents—they are found in a person. That’s what I’ve tried to capture in these two poems:
Continue reading Peace And Rest
I hope you have a happy Christmas, or a merry Christmas if you say it that way, and a happy New Year. I hope your celebrations this month are trouble-free and full of joy, and I hope 2023 is better for you than 2022. Of course there’s probably nothing I can do to actually make that happen for most of you, but I hope it for you anyway. We don’t know what’s around the next corner, so we might as well be optimistic about it.
I’ve always been an optimist. I’ve got so much optimism I can be an optimist for you as well, if you want me to. I can believe all the best things about your future and mine. It comes naturally for me, so it’s no trouble. The only trouble with the whole thing is the trouble that keeps popping up and spoiling my optimistic outlooks. Sometimes everything doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s not ok. Sometimes it’s not grand, it’s not good, and it’s not even fine. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes my optimism is just plain wrong. So I still hope you have a happy Christmas, but I’m also painfully aware that my positive thoughts won’t be able to make that happen for you.
Continue reading Hope > Optimism
“What is truth?”
That was Pilate’s question to Jesus, after Jesus told him that he had come into the world “to testify to the truth.” The question was a good one, but Pilate didn’t wait for the answer. Probably it was less of a genuine question and more of a cynical—possibly bitter?—statement of the shifting realities of political life and Pilate’s role in it. This was a man who had given up on the idea of firm principles. He had seen how changeable the crowds could be, and how precarious his position and power were. He could not afford to care about what was really, foundationally, true—he could only respond to the immediate situation in front of him and try to make the best of it for himself. Or so he thought.
Continue reading The Truth Is Not Mine
There’s a house in Ireland, on the grounds of Cahir Castle, that is known as The Swiss Cottage. It has nothing at all to do with Switzerland, but the name sounds exotic and foreign and I’m pretty sure Switzerland doesn’t mind. It was actually designed by a famous English architect (who also designed parts of Buckingham Palace) for a powerful Irish Earl in the early 1800’s. It was made as a cottage orné, a style that imitated and idealised the homes of the poor, while still retaining the comforts of the wealthly. The Earl and his family and friends could escape from their large castle to the fanciful cottage for a picnic or party, and for a while pretend that they were like simple peasants, like the peasants who worked their large estates. They even went so far as to dress up for the part sometimes, or perhaps it’s more proper to say that they dressed down, into the clothes of the common people. Nearby, an underground tunnel meant that actual peasants could come and go from a hidden basement kitchen without being seen, until they were called upon to serve their masters, who were pretending to be like their own servants in the garden. Can you imagine being one of those servants, watching powerful lords and ladies playing dress-up in servant’s clothes, while still making you do all the actual work? If the walls of that underground kitchen could talk, I’d imagine they could repeat a few choice words. The Earl and his family may have dressed the same way as the servants, but there was still a big difference: the real servants served. The pretend servants didn’t.
Continue reading Dress-Up Servants
I hope you had a good celebration this Easter. There really is nothing better in the world to celebrate—the resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Here’s a short poem I wrote as I thought about what Easter means for my future:
Continue reading The Third Date Never Comes
It’s traditional in Ireland to give chocolate selection boxes at Christmas, with a variety of different treats inside. I can’t share chocolate with you over the internet, so I’ve put together a different kind of selection box for you, full of different kinds of Christmas treats from different kinds of people. Enjoy!
Continue reading A Christmas Selection Box 2021
On the ruins of an ancient cathedral in Ardmore, County Waterford, on the south coast of Ireland, there are a series of pictures carved in stone. Each picture tells a story from the Bible, and most of them are still complete enough to be recognisable. Adam and Eve are under a tree, and three wise men are bringing gifts to Jesus. Solomon is there with a sword, making a judgment between two women who claimed the same baby. There’s also a pair of weighing scales—but what Bible story is that?
Continue reading How Much Does A Good Deed Weigh?
This poem is an old one, which I posted here on my blog three years ago (it’s hard to believe the blog has been going that long). I am re-posting it today because most of you wouldn’t have seen it back then, and also because I’ve been thinking about these ideas a lot recently as I’ve worked on the manuscript for “Dream Small.” When the book comes out, you’ll see that one of the chapter titles uses a phrase from this poem—I’ve called it, “The Upside-Down Ladder.” I have to say, though, that the original inspiration for this poem came from a scene in “Hind’s Feet on High Places,” by Hannah Hunard, a book I highly recommend.
Continue reading The Song of Streams