At one level this piece which I am about to write is a gloomy enough offering in keeping with an October evening with the weather breaking down and nightfall coming earlier.
It is also a yarn which I earnestly hope is not of any interest at all to the overwhelming majority of you over there wherever you are.
At another level though, very poignantly and sadly and pragmatically, these lines and this information have the potential to convey comfort and healing to folk who are hurting badly just now and feeling lost and lonesome.
This is coming to you all because of an encounter I had in a Chicago bar with a young man from Connemara about 10 years ago. We met up because he had learned I was visiting the city, he knew I knew his family for years, from when he was a child whose name I did not know because he was so young back then, and he recognized me from the photo which weekly appears on my weekly column in the Irish Voice.
And it quickly transpired that not only was he anxious for all the home news that does not normally feature in family letters and phone calls, he was also deeply homesick and there was a cruelly common extra dimension to that condition.
Putting it simply, he was illegal because he had outstayed his holiday visa, like so many more then and since, and his heart was breaking because his mother was ailing and he could not go home to Connemara to see her because he would not be allowed to return to the U.S. if he did so.
And, compounding the problem, he was the father of a one-year-old son his parents had never seen and was deeply in love with his Italian partner.
He had two jobs, one of them building the traditional stone walls of his homeland around Chicago gardens, and the tears rolled down his cheeks as he explained to me how he could not risk going home to see his Mammy (he called her that old love name too) and the phone calls home did not ease the pain one bit.
I am sure it is a common story in your world over there, but I'd never seen or heard it so dramatically and powerfully illustrated before.
It was no consolation to me that I hid the worst of the truth from him in our conversation. It was well known in the local parish grapevine that his mother was so ill that she did not have more than a few months left to her on this earth. Parishes know realities like that.
I had to say I had not seen her out and about for some time, but I'd met his father and sister recently and they had told me she was doing okay.
And then I tried to divert him a bit with parish trivia. I did my very best, but somehow I knew well even when we were speaking that he knew I was not telling him all the truth.
Ye know the way it is. His mother died before the Christmas of that year.
I attended the funeral that he was unable to come to and I even uttered a silent prayer for the lad that day before I came home from the Rahoon graveyard.
Accordingly, it is for that young man and any other far flung family member in the same straits these days that I am writing this piece. It may offer small comfort and consolation to some, and it is on this basis it is being forwarded.
I saw a story in this week's issue of The Clare Champion, you see. I have no connection with the project involved, and know no more about it than what was published in the Champion, but it strikes me that here is what seems to present as a good idea with healing possibilities.
The paper listed a list of finalists in a Business Excellence Awards competition run by the progressive Ennis Chamber of Commerce, and one of those finalists was a company named Funerals Live which, in a nutshell, is currently streaming Irish funeral ceremonies live to family members all over the world who, for whatever reason, are unable to be physically present on the sad occasion.
I thought of my Chicago friend at once when I read the nomination.
The promoters are quoted as saying that their service is unique, is being very widely availed of and they are receiving warm thanks from families that have availed of it.
They also stated their live coverage of the emotional days was also hugely appreciated by elderly or ill family members abroad who otherwise would have totally missed the event.
There was no coverage of the costs involved and I know no more about the project than what I have just stated, except that the web address listed in the Champion is given as funeralslive.ie. Presumably further details are available from there and, just on the basis of that Chicago episode, I am glad to pass this much information on to somebody, anybody, who is reading this with pain in their hearts. And I hope it is not you this time.