I had known for years that my Great Grandfather came from a town called Sligo just north of Galway Bay. And my father always talked about Ireland as if he'd lived there himself. HE adored the thought of it and loved visiting.
About five years before he died, he made it clear that he intended to get his Irish citizenship and he and I spent nearly tow years lining up the documents to see that dream come true.
As he gained confidence it would happen, I gained a ton of knowledge about our ancestors and about what Ireland meant to him. He said it was one of just a few places where he felt at home and at peace.
If you read this column regularly you know that I left quite a bit of his ashes in a picturesque village we stumbled upon that I am sure he would have loved. We took what was left and his Irish Passport and headed to Sligo.
It took us two hours to get there that morning and when we arrived we took the first parking space we could find and walked. To escape a bit of mist, we ducked into a traditional Irish clothing store run by John Mullaney and his nephew. And as my sister-in-law, Frances, was admiring a rack of ties, a door that blended so well into the woodwork of the wall that it had gone unnoticed opened and John Mullaney appeared. That gave her quite a start, but he quickly put her at ease.
You see he was a slight older man in a dark pinstripe suit. He had bushy grey eyebrows and a brogue so thick we thought we'd caught a leprechaun. He was quick to find her everything she was looking for.
He helped me too by copying off two pages of Meehans in the local phone book. I asked him if perhaps we owned a castle somewhere. He laughed and instead pointed me to a small bar on the Garavogue River that was run by Aiden Meehan.
Aiden was opening the bar for the day. He looked remarkably like my own father had 30 years before. He showed us a wall of family photos. We shared a couple of pints of Guinness and he gave us directions to the most peaceful beach in Sligo; Strandhill.
We arrived very near sunset. The clouds were thick and the ocean was seaglass green. I climbed down some steps and rocks to sit at the water's edge and put all but a dusting of what was left of my father's ashes out there. And just moments later, I swear to you, the clouds parted and offered a beautiful silvery sunset.
We all believe what we need to, to help life and death make sense. I believe that sunset was my father smiling to be at rest exactly where he wanted to be.
And I believe that John Mullaney and Aiden Meehan were a magical part of getting us all there.