The loss of a Giant

Shock woke us up on Sunday morning.

Instead of rooting out Munster scarves and jerseys and organising lifts in and out of town, my husband and I sat and stared at our phones in shock and disbelief.
And how do you explain to a five-year old that you’re upset because a man you’ve never met has died? How do you understand it yourself?
The ordinary tempo of the family home continued, as it must; after all, he wasn’t my husband, uncle, friend or cousin…
There’s no allowance for grief here.

Except for all of us, perhaps without even knowing it, that’s precisely who Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley had become. He, like others without us noticing, seep into our consciousness, and our lives. Often unspoken, we hold these men and women as personal heroes, as the standards we want to reach, what we want for our children. And when they go, the void that’s left is as shocking to us as it is painful.

The grief in Limerick this week is palpable.

This open pain is at once comforting and upsetting. It hurts to see others hurt, but it helps so very much, to know we are not the only one grieving for this loss, the loss of a stranger we knew so well.

Grief is a process, without efficient timelines or tidy linear progression. There is no correct way to heal. There is no point at which we should be over it by now. The heartfelt responses of his friends and teammates simultaneously speak to shock and anger, bargaining and depression. That it, “didn’t make any sense yesterday… it doesn’t make any sense today” (Keith Wood), echoes in us all. How many of us asked “Why Anthony Foley”, like David Corkery, feeling defeated in the face of such a cruel God?

But the solidarity in Limerick this week was humbling.

So I ask you to continue to be kind to yourself and to the person standing beside you.
Allow your grief to be. To happen. To take its path.

No, We don’t “accept”, in any way, this loss. To accept it would seem to legitimise it and that is certainly not the case. It’s not ok. We are all too shocked and angry, hurt and confused. But, in the past week, Limerick took his lead, shared in his strength and his leadership and unified. Shoulder to shoulder, side by side, we are standing strong for one another, and through tears, We are proud. Munster Proud.
Irish by birth, Munster by the grace of God.

R.I.P Axel.

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