I had great, strange surreal craic last week, some of the most enjoyable days of my life, because I had the golden opportunity to relish an out-of-body experience which was near unique.
None of you are likely to be easily able to savor the same experience. It will be well nigh impossible as I will now explain.
You see, what happened was that I opened my morning paper over a cup of strong coffee and what jumped out at me, complete with large photograph atop, but my OBITUARY! I kid ye not.
There it was, paragraph after paragraph of it, biographically accurate about my fundamental details. It recorded deep shock among my Clare community at my sudden passing, said nice things about my career and few achievements, recorded the fact that I was a decent and generally inoffensive poor divil all my life and times and, taking all things into consideration, my coffee went cold and my cigarette went out in the ashtray as I thoroughly enjoyed every single word of it.
I realize that the same thing will not happen to any of you good and gentle readers, that you will have the chance to read and analyze your own printed obituary in a leading national paper and you still very much alive, kicking, healthy, smoking and drinking freely and getting ready to face a West of Ireland day. That will not happen.
However, from my unique new perspective, can I tell ye without any reservations at all that reading your own obituary, and staring at a photograph of yourself in even happier times, is magnificently invigorating and empowering and even spiritual.
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I am looking at it again in front of me on the table as I write this, and boy do I feel inspired.
I am delighted, for example, to read that I was down in my favorite pub the Honk when the end came. I am even more delighted and heartened by the detail that I was singing my (quite powerful) version of the ballad "Carrickfergus" in my last minute on this earth, the bar hushed and respectful, and, though this detail was omitted from what was otherwise a splendid example of reportage, I was delivering the great line: "I'm drunk today and I'm seldom sober/A handsome rover from town to town" when I slipped off my usual high stool, with no evidence at all of pain or suffering, and was clearly halfway to Purgatory before I hit the floor.
That is immensely comforting because none of you who have no knowledge of your obituary details, have any idea at all about the time and place of your inevitable passing. I feel very privileged indeed to have been able to peruse my own obituary and discover important details like that.
The obituary appeared in The Irish Examiner which is very widely read in this region, and I have to report that the phone began ringing incessantly even before I had finished reading the obituary.
And a splendid neighbor lady called to the door to comfort the Dutch Nation and offer all support and practical help such as beginning the construction of the hundreds of sandwiches which are always consumed in rural Ireland when unexpected deaths occur. The poor lady nearly dropped dead when she saw me sitting up hale and hearty in the corner.
And I also had trouble convincing the Dutch Nation herself that the publication of her husband's obituary was, indeed, grossly premature.
In the hours and days since, in a nutshell, the level of ribald slagging to which I have been subjected by my friends, especially in the Honk, has totally brightened up the dark days of an Irish month of November.
In defense of the publishing standards of The Irish Examiner, for whom I am a weekly columnist in their farming supplement, I have to reveal now that, being zany as ye well know, I actually wrote the obituary myself the previous week and, I am ashamed to say, took some liberties with the facts of the years before me.
I claimed, for example, that I was Ireland's oldest man at the time of my death, two days before my 118th birthday, that I won a €30 million jackpot just before reaching my century, that my proudest day of all was seeing my Fermanagh win the All-Ireland football final, that my country wake lasted for four days and five nights, and that I was survived by, not just my four present children, but by a total of 14 sons, seven daughters, a total of 207 grandchildren and great-grandchildren and (and this took a little explaining to the Dutch Nation!) by my fifth wife Bedelia.
Incidentally, as I leave ye to drop down to the pub for the pleasure of more ribald slagging with a sharp edge, can I add that, according to the obituary, my funeral was attended by representatives of President Ming Flanagan and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Cecilia Ahern...
* Originally published in 2015.