Rest In Peace, Tony Hourigan
Yesterday (24/08/2017), my brother, Tony Hourigan, was interred at the Grange Church Cemetery in County Limerick.
The Hourigan family is deeply indebted to Fr. John Daly and his concelebrants for a memorable Requiem Mass. A feature of the Mass was the beautiful and melodious requiem music and song of mourning and consolation, performed by Jade Dillon and Noirin O'Sullivan. We will be eternally grateful to you, Jade and Noirin. We are also extremely grateful to Helen O'Dwyer, Sacristan, for her support and for having this beautiful church looking splendid.
Eileen and her family wish to sincerely thank Butler Funeral Directors, Bruff, for their management of the funeral. Niall Butler went to extraordinary lengths to accommodate the family wishes. Sincere thanks are extended to the men who prepared the grave and who ensured that the grave area looked so well after the burial.
The family also wishes to sincerely thank all of the women and men who dealt with essential logistics over the funeral days, especially traffic management. The family greatly appreciates the copious amounts of food and drink that was so generously brought to the house by friends and neighbours.
Over the two funeral days, a huge number of people attended at Tony's home and at the church to support Tony's family and to extend sympathy and condolences. Sincere thanks to you all.
Tony passed away after a serious illness, borne with great courage over several months. He suffered greatly over those months, always with dignity, calmness and acceptance, but always fighting, right to the end, for the life that was so precious to him always. He was never one to give-in.
Right through his illness, Tony never indulged in self-pity, always thinking about and concerned for his family.
In his eloquent and moving eulogy to his father at the funeral Mass, Ray spoke of Tony's dedication to and love of his wife - Eileen, his daughter - Karen, his sons - Ray, Ged and Niall and his grandchildren. No words of mine could surpass Ray's expression of Tony's total adoration of his family; I will not even attempt to do so. Suffice for me to say that Tony was a family man, first and foremost, a family man supreme, a great provider and protector. Ray also spoke of the reciprocated love and affection always shown to Tony by his family. He was their rock. Ray spoke of many aspects of Tony's life: including his dedication to his work, a remarkable work ethic, his sporting prowess, his DIY skills and his gardening green fingers; therefore, I will not dwell on those here.
My siblings and I were privileged to have had Tony as a living brother for so many years - he enriched our lives in many ways, and he will remain in our minds and hearts, never to be forgotten.
Our family suffered our share of tragedies over the years. During such times and afterwards, Tony provided us with unwavering support and encouragement. His brotherly concern always helped us through the rough patches in life.
Recently, as I was repeatedly struck by Tony's courage in dealing with his illness, I had cause to remember the little boy with whom I grew up, and I was reminded of of our childhood and living in what was then a small house in Grange. He was as gutsy and tenacious then as he was throughout his adult life.
Those of you who are rugby fans may recall the Lions Tour of New Zealand earlier this year, when that great Munster, Ireland and Lions star, Conor Murray, accidently elbowed his team-mate, Stuart Hogg (Scotland), who was also his room mate on the tour, causing a facial injury that forced Stuart to miss out on the remainder of the tour. Well, while Conor Murray has one lethal elbow, his left I think, Tony Hourigan had two lethal weapons. You see, there was a time in our well-populated home in Grange, when three boys had to share a bed, not more than four feet wide, I would say. Liam was at one side and I at the other. Tony drew the short straw and was in the middle. There was an imaginary 'no-man's-land' at either side of Tony, not quite as wide as the strip between North and South Korea! God help Liam or myself if we entered 'no-man's-land' - Tony could deliver an elbow to the ribs with either hand, and he frequently had to repel invasion of his territory. He could probably have acted as a consultant to Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator.
I am reminded of another example of Tony's tenacity. There was a time in our childhood when a fattened pig was slaughtered every now and then for meat for a large family. On pig-killing day, the animal was slaughtered (by an expert) on a table in our backyard. A gutsy young-lad was required to hold a bucket to collect the pig's blood, to be used as an ingredient for home-made black puddings. Tony was the only child in our house who was up for the challenge. He had a day off school as his prize, while the rest of us were happy to miss the gory spectacle.
There are so many happy childhood memories involving Tony.
Over the recent months, during Tony's illness, I observed two events, in particular, that epitomised the special affection and bond between Tony and his grandchildren: Aoibhin (9), Siofra (8), Cathal (6), Jack (3) and Morgan (10 months).
Shortly before Tony's surgery, Ged and his wife, Laura, and their three year old son, Jack, arrived from New York to be with him at the Mater Hospital in Dublin. I was with Tony when they arrived to visit him on one occasion. Young Jack ran straight to Tony and up in his arms. Tony's face radiated a new vitality. He then took Jack for a short walk before returning to join his visitors at a seating area. He quipped - "I took him for a walk in case he would dismantle the Mater", said laughingly with a mixture of grandfatherly pride and affection.
My second observation was at Tony's home, shortly after his discharge from the Mater Hospital. Nine year old Aoibhin was about to leave for home with her parents. She went and sat closely beside Tony on a couch. They sat with arms linked for several minutes in meaningful silence - an exchange of words was not necessary. It was a poignant moment.
I will conclude with a short verse that I came across some years ago in an old burial ground near Camp in County Kerry. It is perfectly suited to Tony.
"You always had a smile to share,
A laugh, a joke, a time to care.
Warm and true.
These are the memories we have of you."
Rest In Peace, Tony.