Tuesday, October 09, 2007

John Robinson: the force of her love

During the "Ester's Walks of Life" programme on 9 September 2007, John spoke about Ester before reading Patrick Kavanagh's poem In memory of my mother.

One of the last times I met Ester was on a beautiful hot summer's evening. We went to Golder's Green and spent several happy hours smoking Nirgila, drinking mint tea, talking, eyeing people up and generally putting the world to rights. I remember it as a gloriously happy evening, one in which we tasted the goodness of life together. I still return within myself to this memory periodically when I want to refresh my spirit and it seems to me that I am still warming myself at the fire that burned so brightly and beautifully within Ester, even from beyond the grave. I also knew Ester in the context of the painstaking and often difficult context of interfaith dialogue and reflecting on this several things stand out. Firstly, that amazing smile of hers which would light up her own features and had a way of spreading to the faces of others so that it seemed as if the whole room would light up. Secondly, her ability to dance all night, and I mean all night, to the greatest hits of Nina Simone, another occasion which will remain forever etched on my memory. Yet perhaps most of all there was the incredible warmth with which she could envelope people and issues so that it seemed that not even that which was most implacably frozen could stay in that state, but ultimately had to yield to the force of her love. The poem I am about to read was written by Patrick Kavanagh for his mother; I read it now for Ester:

Patrick Kavanagh: In memory of my mother

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday—
You meet me and you say:
'Don't forget to see about the cattle—'
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life—
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us—eternally.