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Fall is the season of death. And so it has been.

Its now 40 days since Paco’s death. 40 days since death became real to me. That is to say that for 25 years I dealt with death in what I suppose is a classically childish way…its something that happens to people, but at arms length. Now I’ve put away childish things, I suppose, and can see death as the thing most people come to see it as at a much earlier age. Death is real, it is possible at any moment, and it is all around us.

It seems since August 14 I can’t stop staring at death, like a disfigurement in someone that you wish you didn’t feel compelled to look at. Ted Kennedy, a former pastor, a friend’s mother, and a relentless list of celebrities (Michael Jackson, Farah Faucett, Patrick Swazee…)

There are worse places to process life’s finite nature than Galway, where I find myself now. Fall doesn’t seem so teeming with death and decay when everything is green. Its easier to remember the cycle of things–that underneath the autumn leaves are buds waiting to be blossoms in a new day.

They say Galway is the “place where ambition comes to die”. And, I can see why. Our travel book, in its description of Galway, says, “Attractiveness is the city’s main attraction, and you can spend a pleasant day simply following the many pedestrian lanes and riverside and bayside walks.” In our first two weeks here, we’ve found this to be true. I have simply never set foot in a place so pleasant, so communal, and so demanding of deep thought and reflection than this town. In one 5 minute loop from our front door I can say hello to swans along the River Corrib, pass a bridge where Jame’s Joyce’s wife Nora walked daily as a child, step into the sanctuary of a church built in 1320 where Christopher Columbus is said to have prayed before crossing the Atlantic to discover the New World, and withdrawal cash from an ATM at a bank that is housed within the medieval Lynch’s Castle where the term “lynching” got its name. The history here is long, complex, and visible.

One part of realizing our own mortality (in other words, maturing), I think, is to realize truly good moments in life. The past two weeks–as we begin our lives here–have been one big good moment. Another part of maturing, I think, is to begin speculating about what causes particular good moments in life…both with an eye on re-creating similar conditions in the future, and on expressing gratitude to people connected to the causes.

So far, I’ve come up with two causes of this current one. 1) Marry up 2) Take on debt.

Sometimes I forget where I am. It’s not early Alzheimers, or even just ditzy forgetfulness (which I am prone to), it’s the sheer amount of change and movement that’s been a part of my life for the last couple of years. I wake up in the morning and spend a few confused minutes trying to orient myself. Even my dream last night had me in Ann Arbor, Michigan visiting my sister and my friend Matt, and in Philadelphia, visiting friends (newly married!) Katherine and Sean. In each city, I was desperately looking for a place to stay the night, to eat a meal, to settle down a little.

In the mornings when I finally do realize what city and country I am in, I remember that I am in Galway, Ireland. And I am beginning a new life, again.

This past summer was a wild roller coaster ride of time with friends, precious moments with family, travels around the United States, and mental preparation for another move across the ocean. And then, two weeks before leaving for Ireland, my world was turned completely upside down with my most intimate encounter with death to date. My stepfather Greg, lovingly known as Paco, died of natural causes while canoeing in Canada. To say it was unexpected would be the understatement of the year. Paco was one of the most active, healthiest people I have ever known.

I wish I could just write this blog, with my observations and commentary on life in Ireland, without having to acknowledge his death. But I feel that I have to, if I am to be honest about my life here. Because it is not as if I am only beginning a new life in a new country. Not anymore. Now, I am beginning to learn to live with the knowledge of the existence of death in a way I never had to before. I am having to re-teach myself to trust that the people I love will, in fact, be around tomorrow; that I’m not about to lose another person. I am constantly reminding myself to savor the good moments, and to follow my dreams, and to carpe diem! – and all of those cliches. I am doing all of these things, while at the same time, beginning a life again in a new country.

And thank God that country is Ireland. It is a place that practically forces you to feel things more deeply. Its sad history – the oppression, the famine, the poverty – is all around. The constant reminders of it are never far away and are as permeating as the English language, the language of colonization. And at the same time, the good things are somehow so much more sweet. Fast, joyful discussions about anything and everything shared over a pint of beer or a glass of wine. The comfort of a cup of hot tea taken inside a warm house while the wind and rain pound the trees outside. Swans gracefully drifting along the riverbank. Rainbows, the ocean, and so much GREEN. Ireland is so full of life. So it makes for an excellent place to begin again, and to live out a few of those cliches.

And this is where I will leave you for now. After all, I am supposed to be a student, and I have reading to do. I promise more on what my new life here is actually like. And I promise it soon – we should have internet in our place as soon as tomorrow. Until then, slan go foill (bye for now).

Beautiful Galway Bay on a sunny afternoon.

Beautiful Galway Bay on a sunny afternoon.


Welcome to our blog! Follow along with us as we travel and experience life as a couple of 20-somethings - with all its ups and downs. We hope to post photos, short videos, stories about our daily life and not-so-daily adventures, and thoughts on what’s going on in the world.

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