LAST RESPECTS

Posted by in Blog, Stories on Nov 4, 2013

There was a cloud I saw yesterday looked just like a map of Ireland. Not the whole map. If you drew a line from about Drogheda to about Galway, everything south of that. Of course after a while it looked more like a map of County Clare. They change, don’t they, clouds.

(Silence)

You can make them go away, you know. You can, Tim Pat; you really can. You just stare at a cloud and will it to disappear, and it goes. Sort of magic, really. I’ve done it myself, but only with little ones. It makes you wonder why we don’t all come out on dull and overcast days and will a great big hole in the clouds and bring great bursts of sunbeams and blue skies blazing down. The weather police could come round in loudspeaker vans and get us all out. You’d have to have a sort of communist state to make it work, I suppose. ‘All citizens are required to assemble in the People’s Plaza to will away the clouds, by order of the Clerk of the Weather.’

(Silence)

What would Bosun Higgs and his crew make of that, I wonder? Remember you used to tell me about the Higgs Boson and how they were looking for it, and Concepta and me, we had this idea that it was a sailor called Bosun Higgs who’d disappeared, and you were all looking for him with your big kaleidoscopes, or whatever it is you call them, under the mountains in Switzerland and Italy. (Pause) Dark Matter, that was another one. I sort of got the idea of Black Holes, sort of like stars shrunken in on themselves, but keeping all their gravity so powerful that it let nothing out, not even light, and you’d know they were there the way gas clouds and the like of that would stretch out thin, like spaghetti, as they went past. But Dark Matter, now! Let’s see, what’s this it was now? Stuff in space that doesn’t reflect light; you can’t send up a space probe to bring back a bucketful; you don’t even know if it’s something you can get in a bucket at all, but there it is, with a lot of gravity. Twenty three per cent of the matter in space, you told me. I remember that, all right! And it has to be there, because otherwise all the rest of space would be flying away from itself much faster. So there has to be this Dark Matter to keep things together with its gravity; otherwise, the maths, the whole grammar of how we understand the universe, doesn’t work. So you have to take it on faith. (Pause) Faith in the mathematics.

(Silence)

I used to say, give me a picture, Tim Pat. Tell it me the way I can make sense of it. And you told me how dynamic it all was, how space is not just emptiness, but active, with things happening in it all the time; things coming into being and disappearing all the time. I said, almost like it’s alive, you mean? But you weren’t happy with that. ‘Some things you just have to leave to the experts,’ you said. I remember that, all right. Honest to God, I could have hit you. I nearly did. I balled my fist the way I nearly drew blood with my nails. And there’s you saying that it’s Dark Matter as holds the universe together, and Aunty Roisín saying God’s good enough for her, thank you very much, and you roaring with laughter, and that was Christmas dinner banjaxed,; at least, as a pleasant family occasion.

(Silence)

Then there was all that about electrons, do you remember? ‘A point without dimensions but an expression of infinite power,’ was that it? And you told us about them shooting through two separate slots at the same time, and Uncle Mick says, ‘Sure they move in mysterious ways, right enough’. And then Concepta says, ‘And how many do you think you can get dancing on the head of a pin?’ And you said to her not to be flippant, you cheeky fecker! (Pause) Well, no, not cheeky. Pompous, that was it. Pompous, the way you’d have us throw out God and all His bright angels and believe in Dark Matter, instead. More rational, you called it. Because there’s evidence for it. Evidence! Evidence for the experts, anyway. But what does it give the rest of us to believe in? Oh, I don’t say I’m strong for the Church any more. It’s not exactly a trustworthy organization, to say the least of it. But, you know, I think you were asking us to throw out a most wonderful baby with a lot of admittedly pretty filthy bathwater. And if you don’t give us something warm and clear to believe in, something that we can picture in our minds, or to try to understand, then I think the same thing will happen to science. We’ll just reject it for not honouring something precious in our hearts. (Pause) Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

(Silence)

Listen to me talking to you the way you’d think you could hear me. Lying there, all shrunken. But it’s not you, is it, Tim Pat? It’s just an empty shell. But where are you? Where are you now? They say you can feel the presence of the dead for some time after they’ve gone, but here it is a day, is it? And I feel nothing of you at all. Nothing. (Pause) Nothing. (Pause) I’ve tried to feel you here. God knows, I’ve reached out with my heart, with my soul, all those things you said were nonsense. I didn’t know what else to reach out with! But there’s nothing. Nothing at all. Have you moved on so quickly, or was your soul dead before you died? Did you kill your soul before your body gave up the struggle? Well, Tim Pat, wherever you are, whatever you are; if you’re looking down on me now talking to your corpse, or just a pile of rotting cells in a box, you took something of me with you when you died. You killed something of me. Is it just rotting there with you in that bloody casket, or is it going with you, wherever you’re going? Well, I wish you joy if it. Damn all the joy it’s given me. But I wish you joy.