Have you ever left your country of birth to begin a new life abroad? Was it a journey of choice, or one of necessity? Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to leave your homeland at eighty four years of age?
As a young twenty two year old I left Ireland for Australia. One freezing cold January day, my now husband and I, kissed family goodbye at the airport and off we flew, for our chosen adventure in Perth. Leaving that day was so difficult. My father was just over one year dead, and my Mom and some of my family came to the airport to wave us off. I can remember struggling hard to hide my tears, and looking back I will be forever grateful to my Mom for being brave, and making our parting so much easier.
We were gone for about sixteen months and enjoyed ourselves enormously. Ours was a journey of choice. Many are not so lucky. For them the emigration is forced. Leaving all they love behind in order to look for work, and build a better life for themselves and for their family. These are the two types of emigration I have always known of. However recently I have learned of another.
In a few weeks time an elderly gentleman, whom my friend and I visit regularly, will leave Ireland for England. He will leave the home he shared with his wife who died a few years ago, and travel to live with his son. His house will be packed up, he will say goodbye to his friends and neighbours, to his wife’s burial place, to his much loved back garden, and to the country he loves dearly.
In the past few weeks we have had many a discussion with him about his leaving. He is naturally heartbroken and very reluctant to leave. We try to paint a nice picture for him, of what it will be like to live with his son, who clearly thinks the world of him. However last weekend as I arrived in England for a family wedding, my good pal was very much on my mind. As I sat on the train, watching the countryside pass by, I tried to imagine what he would think on that day, not too far in the future, when he sits on a train, on his way to his new life. Looking out the window I tried to tell myself that this countryside is so very like Ireland, all hills and fields. Yet as I gazed out my window I shook my head. For even though I saw those fields, and cows and farms, I could see no likeness to home. For in my heart these were English fields, and those farms had English houses on them. Certainly very pretty, but definitely not like home.
I can admit that it has greatly troubled me over the past few days. My good pal has lived in England in the past. He did so for forty years, having left Ireland at sixteen by sneaking onto a boat without paying. He lived a good life there, married and raised his son, but thirty years ago he returned ‘home’, for good. He remarked the other day, wistfully, in his soft Kerry accent , ‘By God, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d have to leave this good country again’.
As the days and weeks tick by, ever nearer to us saying our own goodbyes, I am filled with regrets. Regrets we met this lovely gentleman so late, and huge regrets that we cannot take this awful burden from him. This week we will call to see him as always, and as we do so we will pass the old fashioned trunk he has taken down from the attic, that is sitting there alongside his other old suitcases. Each time I see them I imagine them full, as they were when he and his wife arrived ‘home’ thirty years ago. I also imagine him, someday soon, filling them with the life he has lived here. Closing them up, and taking them away. Away from his ‘home’, from the Ireland he holds dear.
I know in many ways he is a lucky man. His son and family eagerly await his arrival. They look forward to a family Christmas, their first in many years, and there are great grandchildren for him to meet. Yet I know despite all the love they have to give him, this man loves Ireland. He loves it with all his heart and soul. My friend and I know how hard it will be to say goodbye to him. We cannot begin to imagine how hard it will be for him to say goodbye. To leave home at eighty four years of age.
It is certainly a side of old age and emigration I never knew existed. I hope in my own future that I never have to experience anything like it. I wish my good pal an easy passage, from his life here in Ireland to his new life in England.
He will be greatly missed…. and not just by this country.
photo credit: debs-eye via photopin cc
photo credit: soilse via photopin cc
45 thoughts on “Ireland will miss you too.”
I traveled to Japan immediately after graduating law school. I lived there for about a year and a half, simultaneously loving the experience and wishing I were home. It would be harder for me now in many ways, and I am content to know I will travel there someday with my family.
I think there are likely good things ahead for your friend. I also think there is a hard road to get there. I hope it is made somewhat less bumpy by the loving support of friends like you.
I hope so too. We have grown so very fond of our pal. I can’t imagine having to leave my life now, but such is the difficulty with old age.
Japan, what a very different experience that must have been,
I certainly feel for the guy. His experience isn’t all that different for so many who have to be separated from their comforts and homes as dementia sets in and assisted care is required. It’s a telling sign that signals an independence transition. And for the chronologically blessed, giving up their cherished independence is a very difficult act and realization.
Yet we humans are a very adaptable species. Even in and through great loss, many of us find ways to appreciate change, new environments, and different routines. It takes time but in that time, we will always have the memories that we choose to carry forward into new space.
Yes indeed Eric, it is like others who leave for a home. However he is also leaving his own country, and who knows if he’ll ever get to come back.
I do think he is very resilient and I hope he can make a lovely new life for himself with his family.
Very nicely written Tric, MM 🍀
This is definitely a side of emigration I never thought about and to be honest I find this quite disturbing, especially when at some stage in your life, you’ve decided where you want to spend your last years. I can only imagine how hard it can be for that man to leave his country again. He made the choice to go to England when he was younger, and made the choice to come back, but this is different. As an older person it’s always hard to leave your house when you’ve come to stage where you can’t live independently anymore, but having to leave the country on top of that must be heartbreaking. All of this makes me think of my own situation. After all, I might decide to go back to France and my kids might stay in Ireland. Maybe I will have to come back here at the same age as this man… Who knows… Just thinking about it makes me uncomfortable all of a sudden
I totally get you. I too shudder at the thought of having to make a decision like this ever.
Hopefully it will not be something we will ever have to think about, but I was taken by the fact I’d never really seen this side of emigration before.
Old age can be very hard.
Oh this makes me so sad. You writes it beautiful Tric with such emotion. I could feel how heavy your friends heart was to leave his homeland. It’s on my bucket list to travel to Ireland, the birthplace of my Great Grandma. I pray your friends last years will be spent being overwhelmed and fulfilled with the love of his whole family. 😊❤️🍀
Autocorrect *wrote* not write. 😉
I hope you do get to come over some day. As my old pal says regularly, ‘this is a great country alright’.
I think what you pray for my friend is spot on. We and he, need to concentrate on the positive, and imagine all the love that is going to be coming his way from his family.
You’re welcome, and yes I’ve started dreaming bigger dreams for myself, and Ireland is one of them. 😊 And focusing on the positive and not leaving lots of idle time for homesickness will be the best remedy for him. He may find his heart opens up wider being surrounded by so much love and comfort. I wish him and you all the best. 😊
Great post Tric 😉
I left my home country around 2 years ago and went to live in Spain caused my health. It was not easy and I needed long time to find myself again. Wish your friend the best.
Yes it is not easy to leave your home country, and it must be more difficult as we get older.
I hope you are all settled now in your new life.
Oh the poor old critter. That’s so sad. I don’t understand why he must go if he really doesn’t want to. He may grow to like (and I hope he does) but it seems unlikely in his advanced years. I hope I’m as stubborn as I am now when I’m an ol’ wan.
He is a great age Olivia, with failing eyesight and no family here. He has family in England who want him dearly to go to them, and live independently, but over there.
I know it’s very hard but if he was my Dad I’d want him with me too.
I suppose it is all of us who will miss him, as well as the sadness of watching him miss Ireland before he ever leaves.
Oh well we will just have to make the most of the time he has left here.
Ah well, it’s nice that he’s wanted. It would be awful if he had no family at all. I hope it he grows to like it.
I have a mate who was born in England to Irish emigrants. Her older siblings were on the cusp of adulthood when her parents could finally return home to Ireland, so they came back with half their family. I’ve always thought there’s something sad and often unspoken about this aspect of emigration. First they lose their children in a way to the host country, and now this man is losing his home country to be with them. I just found this desperately sad, and yet he sounds philosophical about it. That generation have admirably broad backs. Best wishes to him.
Thanks. It is a dreadfully difficult situation, and nothing about it is easy, even if he stayed, as his family would miss him.
Deep breaths and we will all just have to make it as easy as possible for him, and to enjoy these days we have with him.
oh, this is so bittersweet, tric. i know with my daughter and her aussie husband living and raising their family in australia, it is hard for everyone. when they live here, it is hard for her husband and his family back home, and for us, when they are there. home is what it is for each of us, and it is hard to leave it.
Yes. I often wonder where my crew will end up. It’s all ahead of me.
Thankfully this man has a family who really love him, it’s just a pity they live so far away.
Tric, it’s very tough on your friend but I think it’s so much better to live with family, assuming relationships are good, than to be in a nursing home with no family near. It will be,a big change and I truly hope that he and his son grow as close as possible. No doubt you’ll miss him but letters are a great comfort as they can be read over and over. My parents certainly treasured the letters they got from my sibs who safe at a distance and the phone calls were hugely important too.
Yes we keep telling him family are great, so hopefully he’ll enjoy it.
He is a very independent man but is a great age. He will be able to live independently over in England which is great. It’s just not Ireland, and not yet ‘home’ for him.
I can’t imagine my friend and I and others forgetting him, so hopefully we’ll remain in some form of contact.
Lovely post, Tric. Leaving for good is hard if a person loved where they were. Keeping in touch is the best medicine for homesickness and missing friends, especially if a photograph or two are tucked inside the letter. ❤
Yes you are right. When the time comes we will continue to keep in touch by post.
I’ve had to leave so many places, and may have to move on again one day, and it is hard. And I can only imagine what is must feel like at 84, leaving beautiful Kerry xx
Yes. He loves Ireland, really loves it and being Irish, but I know he’ll cope and enjoy his family.
That is so sad. It must be very daunting for him to have to leave his home behind him and start a new life. While I understand he will have his son waiting for him, it must be very scary for him all the same.
We recently viewed a house for sale where a lady had lived alone for a number of years. She had to go to a nursing home 6 years ago and the house is exactly the same as the day she left it. Even her reading glasses and tea cup were on a tray in the kitchen, a newspaper on the chair and her clothes and dressing gown in her bedroom. I thought it was very very sad that this poor lady didn’t have one relative or friend who could tidy up her belongings for her and mind her house 😦 Life can be cruel sometimes!
Isn’t that just awful? The poor lady, how sad. Thankfully this man is definitely much loved and a great character. I’m sure he’ll settle in eventually.
I hope he has a safe journey xx
Thanks Sara. I hope so too, right up to the time he feels he is at last settled.
How sad. I know it must have been hard for my great grandparents to leave Ireland, but they were young and looking for a better life and probably adventure. For some, eighty-four might not be the best time to be making a move. I know when my mother moved just from another state to live with me it was hard for her to leave. Hopefully, being with his family and not living alone will be a good thing.
Did your mother settle when she moved? I feel that he will settle even if he leaves a little bit of himself here. It is just the thought of how hard it will be to pack up, and to say goodbye.
I never really thought of that kind of emigration. We nearly emigrated when I was about 14, my son’s age. I often think how different my life could have turned out….. and am so happy it turned out the way it did. I don’t even want to consider any talk of my boy ever leaving my house let alone the country!!
Great post and I wish your friend well. xx
Thanks a million. I really want my children to travel, and in time hopefully to come home, even though I barely coped when they went to school, and college!
She kind of settled, but her heart was never where she move to. She missed the place she moved from. I’m sure if he’s close to his family and there is lots of love that he will be fine. I think the secret is the “love.”
he Scots and the Irish have so much in common, including a shared experience of forced emigration – the potato famine in Ireland, and the highland clearances in Scotland
they share too a spirit of adventure that has led to a lot of voluntary emigration and there’s hardly a country in the world where you will not find Irish and Scots, or their descendants
and yet no matter the number of generations since they have moved abroad, there is a love of the ‘homeland’ and a pride in being part Irish or Scottish that does not seem to be felt by the descendants of English settlers abroad
perhaps it is a celtic thing – this deep emotional attachment to the land of our birth or our ancestral homeland – but I have felt it myself
I emigrated to Canada in my late 20s and loved it
Circumstances forced my return home when doctors gave my friend just a few weeks to live and I brought her back to Glasgow so she could die with her family around her
although it was a sombre occasion, when the plane landed at Prestwick and I saw the familiar sights and my ears were assaulted by familiar accents, I was almost overcome by an upwelling of emotion
I have felt the same thing every time I return home – whenever I see that sign ‘Welcome to Scotland’, my heart swells and my spirit lightens, so I can imagine how difficult it will be for your friend to leave Ireland for what may well be the last time
on the other hand, he will surely have peace of mind knowing he is among loved ones who will ease his passage from this world when the time comes – for when you are alone and nearing the end of your days, it is not fear of dying that prevents you from sleeping at nights but fear that your passing will go un-noticed
wishing your friend’s remaining years are happy ones, and that the love and care by his family will compensate for the pain of saying goodbye to Eire
You really nailed it here in this comment Duncan. It is not just the leaving but that mix of love of his homeland, coupled with the understanding of emigration that makes his leaving so difficult for him. Our two nations are incredibly alike.
I’d love if you blogged somewhere. Not Madhatters, but a blog with more personal posts. You write your comments so beautifully, and I have read your old blog posts you shared with me, they are beautifully written, and there is some fantastic humour there…. sigh… I’ll just have to continue to prompt you to comment here so I can read what you write. 🙂
I can relate. I left home at twenty-one to further my education. It was hard to say goodbye. For seven years I worked hard for my paper—degrees and money. Then, just as I was getting ready to say goodbye to my second home, I met the love of my life. He lived in yet another home that inevitably became mine, through marriage. Not a day passes without me missing my original home, my nurturer— so to speak, but I’m equally at home here. :). Such is life, huh? *sighs nostalgically*
Hmmmm….much food for thought, Tric. I’m interested to hear how much you’ve traveled and where? Have you ever been to the states? I have never been overseas, but have always wanted to go. We hear it said often, “nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there”…does that apply to any places you’ve visited?
The closest I can come to a comparison would be to say that I am currently living out my later years absent of my homeland. I’m a “Northerner” but living in the South. Even if I live to be 100 here in the South, I will be able to say the majority of my years were lived up North. I guess I never really felt that sense of “home” that your gentleman friend felt with his native Ireland. Wherever I’ve lived or life took me, I was “at home”. In fact, I think I prefer where I live now to where I used to live. There are a few things I miss…but for the most part I feel at home in Texas.
My husband, on the other hand, has a strong sense of home and a devout loyalty to his native state, Texas. He swears he would never live anywhere else. I have been known to say, “I moved to Texas and met and married my Texas man within the first year and now I’m stuck!” LOL
Sad and beautiful Tric. Hope he finds enough with his family to compensate for the loss of home and independence…a tricky balance!
I hope so too. An awful situation, but he is a wonderful character so I have great hope he’ll do well.
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