In recent years Martin and I bumped into each other regularly at the Design Centre, under the arch if the weather was inclement or out in the courtyard if the sun was shining
Martin Flynn passed away on May 29, 2021. “Martin Flynn, Melville Heights and late of Drakelands Middle, peacefully in the wonderful care of the staff at St Luke’s Hospital and SOS Kilkenny” to quote the death notice in RIP.
I cried when I read that. I cried because I knew Martin. I liked him. I loved him. But it wasn’t the first time that I cried for Martin Flynn.
The first time I cried for Martin was when we were classmates in primary school. It’s where we got to know each other, or got to know each other as well as second class pupils get to know each other. We got to know each other’s names and exchanged simple, school-kid greetings. Martin was different. The word ‘special’ hadn’t been invented, or rather thought of, back then.
I knew Martin was different, the entire class knew Martin was different and I can only assume the teacher, older - much older - and wiser than any of us, knew Martin was different too. But if he did, he showed little regard for that difference. In fact he treated Martin just like the rest of us.
A good thing you might think. But no. Martin was not like the rest of us. Martin was different. Martin was special.
One day, Martin was ‘sent to the line’ (as happened for missing your tables or spellings or whatever) Soon the leather appeared and the slapping started.
And that’s when I heard Martin sobbing and saw the tears, tears of confusion, tears of pain flow down his cheeks. I am seven, maybe eight, years of age and I know in my innocent heart and soul that this is not right. I know that this is wrong. Very wrong.
It was my first awakening to injustice in the world although the word injustice was not in my schoolchild vocabulary back then. And that’s when I cried for Martin. Quietly. Head bowed low to hide my troubled tears. Sobbing and crying, of course, was not unusual back then. Many of us sobbed and cried, and even wet ourselves, when that dreaded leather came down fast and furious on our young, innocent, defenceless palms.
Times have changed since then. Changed a lot. And for the better, thank God. Martin Flynn and myself went our separate ways and it was only in the last 10 years, or so, that we became acquainted again. We bumped into each other regularly at the Design Centre, under the arch if the weather was inclement or out in the courtyard if the sun was shining.
Rain or shine, however, Martin always had the earplugs in listening to his music. Music, I discovered from his sister-in-law Esther’s eulogy, was Martin’s great love (a thousand-plus tapes/CDs he had in his collection) and it was music that sustained him, that kept his spirits up during the lockdowns.
And it was the first time I heard Elvis Presley ‘sing’ (‘How Great Thou Art’) at a funeral. Martin loved Elvis and Daniel O’Donnell, and it was Daniel’s ‘Amazing Grace’, that ushered Martin down the aisle of St Fiacre’s to his final resting place.
Martin and I chatted a lot over the years and always, but always, he would ask about my wife, Kathleen. And here’s a strange thing, I am generally known as Gerry but to my family, and very close friends, I am known only as Ger. For some reason or other Martin only always addressed me as Ger!
There was something lovely about Martin’s funeral. St Fiacre’s Church, where we’d come to say our final goodbyes to a gentle, caring, loving man, was infused with an air of affection, of caring, of love. And that affection, that caring, that love was repeatedly reflected in the numerous expressions of condolence on RIP.
Here are just a few: ‘You were the nicest, kindest gentleman and it was an absolute pleasure to know you, you will always be in our hearts’.
‘Martin enriched us all with his presence and will be sorely missed by all who knew him’.
‘Martin, I was proud to say you were my friend’.
Martin’s sister-in-law, Esther, also spoke of Martin’s ‘gratitude’, how he was always so grateful for everything in life, not least the love of his wonderful family and the love of his SOS family.
Martin, I learned from Esther, lived a happy and fulfilled life. And once again tears welled up in my eyes for Martin Flynn - tears of gladness, knowing that he he’d had such a good and happy life.
And I loved Esther’s closing words: ‘Be happy with us, today.’
Martin, rest in peace my gentle, lovely, loving classmate, friend. And know that I was happy with you today.
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