Happy Birthday, Kerry

My friend Kerry O’Keefe would have been 55 today, had he lived this long. He didn’t. We lost him eight years ago.

He was too young to go, but illness took him after a long battle, leaving a loving wife Áine, and two beautiful children, Evan and Rachel.

I wrote this for him last November, when I visited his grave in Piltown…

Happy birthday Kerry.


Today is All Souls Day.

It is the day when many cultures remember their dead. Those who have gone before us, whom we have loved, and who have loved us. On Saturday I walked through the village of Piltown, County Kilkenny. I visited the grave of my friend Kerry who died in 2008 at the age of forty seven.

I walked up the village in the amazingly warm sunshine to Kerry’s old shop and home where we had parties in my teens, and twenties and thirties. Fun? You have no idea. That man could make the stones laugh.

Starlings chitter chattered in the trees behind the terrace. There were blackberries in the hedge beside Foyle’s. I ate one for old time’s sake. Surely my last of the year. A communion with the waxing and the waning. An affirmation of nature’s eternal generosity.

On the way back I passed the grounds of the Protestant church and graveyard. There, facing a yew tree – the traditional tree of the dead – I saw the small black statue of an angel, head bowed, wings folded. It was turned away from the road, from the living. It looks after its own.

And so, under the sun, and strolling through Autumn’s crisp leaves in the splendour of south Leinster, I thought about the loved ones I’ve lost. I know they loved me and I know I loved them.

And that’s enough. That’s enough.


Novelist, short story writer, essayist, sports writer. Crime novel: Whatever it Takes due out 31 July 2020. The First Sunday in September, debut novel, published in 2018. Mercier Press, Stinging Fly, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, The42.ie, Holly Bough, Honest Ulsterman, Quarryman, Silver Apples.

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