Being away from home for so long, you build up a bridge between the here and there, the life that was, and the life that has become, a life that those at home may never come to understand.
When I left Dublin at 19 to go to New York, I left with a certain arrogance about the move, later in life I put it down to being young and naive and thinking the world somehow revolved around me!
It would not be long before I was to learn that this was not the case. Life took care of that. My life has changed so much in the past 5 and a half years, and I am thankful to say I have changed with it.
Being at home this week in the west of Ireland, the town my father and grandparents came from, brought about a new realisation that in many ways I was more a part of Ireland than I gave myself credit for.
Losing my father almost exactly one year ago changed everything for me, particularly my relationship with my own history. Suddenly all of that was much more important than I allowed it to be before. This time around, home to say goodbye to my father’s father, again gave everything a new sense of importance.
A generation was lost. My grandfather is 90 years old as he lays dying on his deathbed. Born in Sligo in 1922 he was alive before Ireland entered into the ”Free State" era , he lived through the introduction of the Television set, massive changes in farming and agriculture , the death of our Irish hero John F Kennedy, and the turn of the century.
His inevitable passing has forced me to rethink my roots and my future.
My life is very different. I thought of the fast pace of New York. I am always on the go, so much so that I have to leave Ireland early to go back, unable to wait around for the inevitable, missing his final send off.
I thought of the huge contrast between lives, and my heart broke for my grandmother, who as she put it had lost ”two Thomas J’s in 11 months", my father carried the same name. Her strength and intelligence at 82 left me feeling a huge sense of pride, she had been described often as a ” woman before her time” and I was thankful to have such an incredible female role model in my life.
We live in a world that is so forward thinking we often forget about the past, but for me history has always been of huge interest, and now more than ever my own history has become a focal point for the future. As an actor/ producer/ director my job is to tell stories, and I have always felt a great responsibility to tell important stories, what better way to lend myself to this than by embracing the legacy that has been left for me to explore.
Robert Kennedy wrote in the forward of his brother's book, "Profiles in Courage", ”what happens to the country, to the world, depends on what we do with what others have left us.”
My Irish past has left me with much more than I was aware to help me move forward for the future. In an era where everyone is seeking their “15 minutes” through unrealistic notoriety I am thankful to have the influence and spirit of my past to walk forward in life with dignity and integrity. I am reminded of the great fallen heroes and what the word courage used to stand for.
I must have faith that all is not lost.I thank my past for this. Ireland no longer seems like the place I left behind, but has become the place I will carry in my heart wherever I go on life’s journey.
Jackie Kennedy’s granddaughter has uncannily similar looks