Remembering my Dad
Michael O'Brien, 9th May 1948 - 3rd January 2017
My Dad passed away on the 3rd January 2017 aged 68. Dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer Easter week in 2016, and even though we knew the reality of the disease, his death still came as a shock to me and my family.
My Dad was the first atheist I ever knew, although I didn't know he was an atheist. In fairness neither did Dad. I had many conversations with Dad about religion, belief and atheism as an adult, but I've no recollection at all of him ever trying to influence my thinking on this subject as a child. I remember one conversation we had a few years ago were Dad talked about his own non-belief. He said that he more or less kept it to himself and that he often wondered if there was something wrong with him that he couldn't just believe in something when everyone seemed to find that belief so easy. Dad thought the flaw was in him.
It was much later on that Dad began to use the word 'atheist' to describe himself. I gave him my copy of 'The God Delusion' to read. It confirmed everything he had ever felt.
I was the lucky winner in thelottery of birth to have this exceptional, intelligent, family-dedicated, book loving, whiskey drinking, irreverent joke loving human being as my father. He was one of the best humanists I have ever know, I can but hope to live up to the example he set me.
Below are the few words I spoke on the day of my Dad's cremation.
Writing this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Not because I’ve nothing to say about Dad, but how do you capture a life lived in a few sentences. All I can do share is the impression Dad made on my life.
Dad was a highly intelligent man. He left school young and so was largely self-taught. He was an avid reader and a love of reading and books is something he passed on to all his children. I remember our weekly trips to the small library in Walkinstown. It didn’t take Dad long to have read practically every book on loan there, but the librarian used to put to one side any new books that came in that he thought Dad would like so Dad always got first pick.
Dad was also an amazing story teller, he used to do all the voices and he had a great reading voice. One of my favourite childhood memories is sitting beside him while he read us ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
Dad would develop different interests. When I was little I remember he cultivated the most beautiful roses in the back garden. Sometimes some of his interests were a bit stranger, I remember him brewing wine in the built-in press in the bedroom we all shared. We would lie in bed at night and listen to the wine going plop as it fermented. And the less said about his clay pipe whittling phase the better.
Dad was a kind, compassionate and caring person. He was not afraid of showing his emotions, a simple song could move him to tears. We practically had to stop him watching the annual sobfest that was 'Noel Edmond’s Christmas Presents'.
After he retired he started volunteering in the Community Centre in Walkinstown and he and Mam kept the Friday night bingo going for there years. Dad hated public speaking, he would get really nervous, but in recent years he had started calling the bingo numbers and this had built up his confidence. He loved having a laugh with the bingo ladies and I know he will be missed by them.
He was a quiet man but with a wife, a son and five daughters he had little choice. I can picture him now sitting out the back garden, listening to us all talking at the same time with a little smile on his face. And then he’d join in with some quip or a joke because Dad was always funny and his sense of humour was quirky and more often than not completely irreverent.
I’d hope that I had made Dad proud. I know I am immeasurably proud that he was my Dad. All my flaws are mine, whatever good I am capable of doing I learnt because of Mam and Dad. He is gone too soon and will be missed more than I can imagine. I hope today conveys some part of who he was and of how much he was loved.
The world is a good man down, this is a sad day indeed.
Dad loved this Zac Brown Band song, it reminded him of the good times he had on holiday in Florida, we choose this song to say goodbye to him to.