To the man with the rose gar­den...

Dear Sir,

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - The Letter I Wish I’d Sent -

IFEEL that’s an ap­pro­pri­ate ti­tle. I was 14, you were, shall I say, el­derly. I had se­cured a job in the Grand Ho­tel, Salthill, you lived in Lower Salthill. My home was 50 miles away in North Gal­way and my mother was taken to hos­pi­tal in what was then called the Re­gional Hos­pi­tal.

Every day I passed your house as I walked to visit her. Mammy had a beau­ti­ful flower gar­den, too, and neigh­bours and teach­ers re­ceived beau­ti­ful bunches of dahlias and glad­i­oli.

One day you were in your gar­den and I asked you for flow­ers for my mother.

You gave me a funny look, but then took out your pruner and cut a dozen of your most beau­ti­ful red roses. I thanked you, but never went back to see you. Years later I dis­cov­ered yours was a prize-win­ning gar­den and I also knew by then that peo­ple with such gar­dens do not cut the flow­ers for use.

I think of you every time I prune my own red roses. Your house is still there, not a rose in sight.

I would like to thank you sin­cerely for bright­en­ing up the day of a child of the 1960s and her mother, and also to say sorry for never re­turn­ing to visit you. Sin­cerely Marian Neary Burke

Dear Sis­ter,

YOU don’t know me, I never knew your name. You didn’t get to in­hale the world out­side; I did. I suck my thumb — every night, every down­time, I soothe my­self with this child­ish act.

I am 40 years old and have al­ways sucked my thumb, and my teeth slant out­wards; yours never had the chance.

I some­times think about why I do this and won­der if it is an un­con­scious throw­back to the womb, a safe place. A place with you and I. Maybe it’s an ex­cuse to al­low me to in­dulge.

I don’t re­mem­ber when I was told, it seems as if I al­ways knew. I had a twin, she died at birth.

Later, jok­ingly, be­ing told that I ate too much, she was too small, she couldn’t sur­vive. Noth­ing changes, sis. I still find it hard to back away from the ta­ble. I have strug­gled with weight my whole adult life. I won­der about what could have been. I try not to ro­man­ti­cise things — we could have fought, we could have been ri­vals for any avail­able af­fec­tion. But we also could have been close, a shared voice, a loyal ear.

We might have looked alike — but I’ll tell you now, you were spared that one, I’m pass­able, a beauty per­haps in the Vic­to­rian sense — long face, strong jaw, high no­ble fore­head. It’s funny, well maybe more strange, I never knew you but I did spend nine months with you. Is it ir­rel­e­vant? Is it im­por­tant? Did your loss make me who I am?

An ac­quain­tance once said to me that in cases where one twin dies, the other gets all the gifts.

Re­ally? I am blessed in so many ways but I don’t think I have a dou­ble dose of any one gift, and if I did I’d much rather have you... good­bye, sis. Your dear­est twin, Mary

Dear Dad,

IT’S been 10 years now since you left us. Ten years since you were found dead in your favourite arm­chair, the cup of tea at your el­bow stone cold and your body colder still.

I won’t pre­tend we were close. Our re­la­tion­ship was awk­ward and strained at the best of times. But your pass­ing still hit me hard.

The ini­tial shock gave way to re­gret. Re­gret that we hadn’t stayed in touch more. And that now I would never have the chance to say a proper good­bye. I want to rec­tify that now. When some­one is gone, they are gone. All you have left of them are mem­o­ries. I re­mem­ber tak­ing care while hold­ing your hand to avoid be­ing ac­ci­den­tally burnt by your cig­a­rette.

I re­mem­ber be­ing kissed good­night by you as I won­dered why your breath smelled strange. Not un­der­stand­ing it was the rank, sweet odour of al­co­hol. I re­mem­ber how you would eat a ham sand­wich and that even now, I find my­self eat­ing one in the same man­ner.

There is more of you in me than I care to ad­mit. The short tem­per. The im­pa­tience with the fool­ish ways of oth­ers.

The son be­comes the fa­ther and the fa­ther be­comes the son. You were my dad for bet­ter or for worse. Good­bye Tom, rest in peace. Ed­ward O’Reilly

Dear Bar­bara, Adri­enne & Alan McDun­phy,

SOME 45 years ago, in the sum­mer of 1972, my brother and I had the priv­i­lege of stay­ing with you. Pre­vi­ously both fam­i­lies had met in Sk­er­ries in the sum­mer of 1971. Friend­ships were made back then. How­ever, on March 13, 1972, our mother sadly passed away. By means of com­mu­ni­cat­ing by let­ter, your par­ents kindly in­vited us down to your home in Walkin­stown, Co Dublin.

To this very day I trea­sure these fond mem­o­ries of that sum­mer in Dublin. Sadly, as time went by I lost con­tact with you. I even tried writ­ing and I con­tacted the Ir­ish

In­de­pen­dent in the hope of one day meet­ing up again. The mem­o­ries and the pho­to­graphs of that won­der­ful sum­mer back in 1972 are well doc­u­mented in my per­sonal short story that I penned.

It was a re­ally nice ges­ture of your par­ents to think of us in a time of need.

I look for­ward to the day that I can thank you all per­son­ally for invit­ing me to your home in Walkin­stown and for mak­ing that hol­i­day one that I will never for­get. I re­ally hope you are all keep­ing well. Your sin­cerely, Lawrence (Larry) Power

Dear God,

IHOPE you are well as this leaves me in good form. The tra­di­tional be­gin­ning to a let­ter I re­mem­ber my mother us­ing when she wrote to her relatives and she was a good let­ter writer in her day.

Any­way, God, I was just think­ing, it’s about time I put pen to pa­per to thank you for look­ing af­ter me for the past 72 years.

As you know, I was born into a lov­ing fam­ily and had a happy child­hood, to­gether with my brother and sis­ter.

My school­days were good and I en­joyed the chal­lenges which came up dur­ing my time in the Con­vent of Mercy School. Dur­ing my fi­nal year in pri­mary school, I did parish work such as collecting the lo­cal Sil­ver Cir­cle, which was a fundraiser for parochial pur­poses.

I went around the houses collecting a shilling a line from each house and the top prize was £20, with five prizes of £1 each.

I did a bit of work for your es­tab­lish­ment, too, ring­ing the An­gelus bell for a term, singing in the choir and plain chant and help­ing to erect the crib at Christmas. This early ac­tiv­ity laid the ground­work for the com­mu­nity work I did in my na­tive parish, Thomas­town, and con­tinue to do in my adopted parish of Ben­netts­bridge, where I have lived for nearly 50 years.

But, sure you know all that and I be­lieve that you were keep­ing an eye on me and my fam­ily through the years.

I want to thank you for a good mar­riage, a lov­ing hus­band, five great chil­dren, and eight lovely grand­chil­dren who give us great joy. Through the years we have en­joyed good health — an­other rea­son to be grate­ful to your good self. We have had some im­por­tant fam­ily cel­e­bra­tions, in­clud­ing chris­ten­ings, first com­mu­nions, con­fir­ma­tions and wed­dings, to men­tion just a few.

Of course, we have had our ups and downs along the way, but with your help we man­aged to over­come the ob­sta­cles which came along.

We have been lucky to be able to give our fam­ily a good start in life and all of them have good jobs. I think you may have had a hand in that, too.

We live in a com­fort­able home and are blessed to have good neigh­bours. The church plays an im­por­tant role in our lives. The man in charge of our parish is do­ing a good job and car­ries out his du­ties in a re­spon­si­ble and kindly man­ner. We help out when needed at parochial events. As you know, I am a church reader and also a mem­ber of the choir.

Through the years, I have been priv­i­leged to be in­volved in var­i­ous groups and ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing Ladies’ Club, Tidy Towns, the writ­ing group and, in more re­cent times, an art group.

All of these pur­suits have en­riched my life and I am grate­ful for the tal­ents which have given me great ful­fil­ment.

I am de­lighted to be able to re­turn thanks for your con­tin­ued in­flu­ence in my life and hope to en­joy a few more years with your kind per­mis­sion. Your obe­di­ent ser­vant, Joan

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