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Our 4000 Weeks; the Fragility of Life

It’s been a rollercoaster of couple of months in which the fragile nature of life has been brought to the fore.  Listening to Andy Cope (@beingbrilliant) at the beginning of September, his thought provoking “from the moment we are born we have on average 4000 weeks of life” has resonated strongly.  We decide how we live those 4000 weeks; for some people it is sadly much less and others may have more.

During part of the session, Andy talked about “getting over it”.  The small annoying things that happen to us – someone pushes in to the queue of cars, just in front of you; five seconds added to your journey time – leaving you in a foul mood all day.  Next time something like this happens (and it is safe to do so), move your arm in an arc, like a rainbow, whilst saying “I’m over it” and move on.  The more you are over it the bigger the arc can be.  It is by living every moment as well as we can, leaving the unimportant frustrations behind us, that the hours, days and weeks can add up to a life well lived.  Whilst important lessons in life need to be learnt too often we can clutter up our life and our thinking with irrelevant piffle.

Acknowledgement: Andy Cope (@beingbrilliant)

Not everything can you get over so quickly.  Having sadly lost mum in June; dad passed away in early September.  They are united again, that’s the way they like it.  As a family, we are reeling from the loss of both our parents/grandparents in such a short space of time.  Between these two sad losses, I reached the point of retirement and became a grandad; a generation passes on and a new one begins.  All these events have left me in reflective mode; it’s the eulogy moment during which we reflect both on what we have accomplished in our lives and who we have become.

This is the co-constructed eulogy that I read for dad at his Requiem Mass; he was contented with the life he had lived and for that we give thanks.  I wonder whether I’ll also have the same reflection when my time comes; we need to live life in the moment and the knowledge we all have a final destiny.  It is a balance of now and eternity.

In remembrance of Patrick Tierney RIP

Dad was born on the 12th February 1935, in Fleetwood, and baptised a few weeks later at Sacred Heart in Thornton.  But it was St Teresa’s that was at the heart of his faith journey.  So, it is good that we gather here today to celebrate his life and send him on his way.

Dad’s childhood home was 30, Everton Rd. and he duly started his education at St. Teresa’s School in 1940.  In those days, like all children, he had a kit for a post-dinner wash and a bed for an afternoon sleep.  The afternoon nap would be a tradition he maintained on Sundays as we grew up and daily in the later years of his life.  He’d often surprise us by joining in midway through a conversation having just been “resting his eyes”.

Dad’s childhood seemed to be one of adventures with his brothers: Ronald, Leonard, Ralph and John.  The stories he told of their escapades would often make mum’s hair curl!  As we walked home from Church or from visiting granny and grandad, he would show us the little walled space, at the end of Everton Rd., that he and his brothers defended in solidarity with the greater war effort.

He missed nearly two years of primary schooling due to rheumatic fever but a childhood recovering from rheumatic fever was not without its benefits. Dad watched his mum and learned how to cook, feed and look after a growing family. Things he missed at school he would later work out for himself; passing the 11+, he went to Our Lady of Lourdes Secondary Modern School, as there was no Catholic grammar school in Southport, then onto the Technical College.  He left at 15 to start work at a small firm in Southport; returning to the College as a lecturer in 1962. His whole teaching career was spent there before taking early retirement at the tender age of fifty.

At the end of his first year, studying the Ordinary National Certificate in Engineering Drawing, he obtained an apprenticeship, as a draughtsman, at the GEC in Birmingham.  Destiny led to mum & dad meeting at a parish dance; “Mum was the brightest button in his box”.  Like bookends and socks, mum and dad were at their best as a pair; they were the best of mums and dads.  I can only imagine their joy at being reunited now in heaven.

Nearly sixty years of life together was built on a recipe of mutual respect, forgiveness, a deep love and the occasional intense conversation.  When mum joined dad in the teaching profession, he became the ultimate five minute miler; hurtling down the back stairs of Southport Technical College to the train station.  A short rest and the off he’d jump at Birkdale for his second mile of the day back to Stanley Ave; tea cooked, wife and children kissed and then the reverse journey to teach evening classes.  He and mum were equal parts of a loving team.  Growing up, we thought all dads could and would bring in the shopping and cook tea.  Only later in life have we appreciated what a special man he was.

Dad at our eldest daughter’s wedding (April 2017); just surveying the scene in quiet satisfaction

Having had rheumatic fever as a child, it was no surprise other heart problems were diagnosed in later life.  His heart rate traces, or on occasion lack of them, became legendary. Dad’s heart rate may have been variable but his capacity to love was consistent; he had a heart that loved with great compassion and he acted on that love for family, friends and those in need.

His was a practical faith.  He believed in and through doing.  He started out as an active member of the parish’s Lourdes Pilgrimage Group: bag man in his early days, he shifted to treasurer as the years passed by and finally to a happy armchair pilgrim.  He loved Lourdes and the company of the people who went there with him; thank you to all those who shared those experiences with dad.

Many of you may still be able to picture him standing at the back of church with a black box collecting for the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  This was the visible part of dad’s work; he did so much more, quietly and in confidence.  At one time, as the only car driver in the family, I remember ferrying dad, food parcels and small bits of furniture around Southport to families and individuals in need.  My sisters’ teenage memories include him quietly asking mum “what would someone need if…” or “have we got any spare…” or “me and Ralph are just going to …”  Whilst little DIY was done at home others in need benefited from the time, talents and hard work of these Vincentians.

During sadder, tougher times in our family lives dad was there. When he knew we were up against it he would quietly find a moment to say, “Don’t struggle alone ask for help as soon as you need it; it’s easier to sort it out together”. He didn’t always say much but he held your hand, walked alongside you and said with a deep and steady faith, “It’ll be alright, love”.

Dad’s time management strategy was based on the ‘round tuit’ model.  He usually got around to it but big dreams – the small pebble pool mum wanted in the front garden dad based on the outdoor diving pool at the Barcelona Olympics – and a keen eye for detail often meant there was a lot to do in a short time; timescales tended to slip.  Mum steadily and efficiently worked towards Christmas from September onwards; dad would kick into top gear on Christmas Eve.  He simply heard the beat of a different drummer.

Dad loved good food shared with family and friends; he loved a Chinese banquet so he bought a cookbook and taught himself a myriad of meals.  Thanks to all who were willing tasters as he learnt to perfect the spare rib sauce and for the times we enjoyed at Stanley Ave sharing a table full of Chinese food.

Dad always seemed content with life, “I’ve had my three score years and ten; everything else is a bonus”.  Every day with dad was a bonus for us too.  He gently slipped away last week, in his sleep, in his own home, as he had wanted to.  Thanks, in particular, to Suzanne & Carolyn who enabled him to do this and the team of doctors, nurses and carers who supported them.

Thank you to the parish community who visited dad when he could no longer get to Mass; to family and friends who popped in and kept him up to date and to those who travelled from further away to visit him.  Please accept our invitation to a buffet at the Bold – catering is by loaves and fishes; there will be plenty for all. With thanks to you all for helping dad to enjoy a life well lived; sleep well, dad.



2 thoughts on “Our 4000 Weeks; the Fragility of Life

  1. Hi Stephen. I really enjoyed reading this having known you via Twitter for a good 7 years or so… when we’ve spoken and/or met, over the years I’ve garnered snippets of you; your family and your values. I was sad to hear about your monther and shocked when you told me about your father before writing this! Having lost my father 14 years ago, bereavement is very hard. I cannot imagine how hard it will be to lose both so close to one another. However, knowing you and your values … and having read both blogs about your mum and dad, I can clearly see how much you loved them; how much they cared for you and all these wonderful memories you have of them – and most of all, what a fulfilled life they have both lived. It is this I take solace from. A hard working life; family first; honest and loving is what we should all aspire towards and for this, you should hold your head up and feel immense pride. God bless and see you in November at the Tower!

    Posted by @TeacherToolkit | September 23, 2018, 8:50 am

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