Erin Breen: Journey with Dad’s ashes led to a profound awakening and a new life.

My father always loved the color green. He said it was calming.

So I know that, without a doubt, he is at peace on the Emerald Isle, where I spread most of his ashes at his request on those green shores he loved so much.

My trip to bring his ashes back to his spiritual home took me from the sun splashed desert around Reno, Nevada where I was an Emmy award-winning TV journalist to the cool climes of Ireland. What I never anticipated was how this Reno woman became a Galway girl.

I never hesitated about going, nothing would keep me away once my father made it clear to me that he wanted some of his ashes brought here when he died. What I did not anticipate was I’d end up living in the West of Ireland myself.

I had known for years that my great-grandfather came from a town called Sligo, just north of Galway Bay. And my father always talked about Ireland as if he’d lived there himself. He adored the thought of it and loved visiting.

Sligo Town.

Sligo Town.

About five years before he died, he decided to claim his Irish citizenship and he and I spent nearly two years lining up the documents to see that dream come true.

As he gained confidence it would happen, I gained a ton of knowledge about our ancestors and about what Ireland meant to him. He said it was a place where he felt at home and at peace. So, my sister-in-law and I made that trek about a year after he died bringing his ashes plus ashes of her husband (my older brother) and both of her parents with us.

Erin's father on the hunt for his passport documents.

Erin's father on the hunt for his passport documents.

We made our way to Galway Bay and then we made our way to Sligo, where local historian John Mulaney, helped us find the other Meehan's in the area. He copied off two pages of Meehans in the local phone book.

I asked him if perhaps we owned a castle somewhere. He laughed and instead pointed me to a small bar on the Garavogue River that was run by Aiden Meehan.

Aiden was opening the bar for the day. He looked remarkably like my own father had 30 years before. He showed us a wall of family photos. We shared a couple of pints of Guinness and he gave us directions to the most peaceful beach in Sligo; Strandhill.

Strandhill Beach, Sligo.

Strandhill Beach, Sligo.

We arrived very near sunset. The clouds were thick and the ocean was sea glass green. I climbed down some steps and rocks to sit at the water’s edge and put all but a dusting of what was left of my father’s ashes there. And just moments later, I swear to you, the clouds parted and offered a beautiful silvery sunset.

Little did I know how that day would impact my own future. You see, I fell in love with this area too. And when my youngest daughter moved out of the family home in Reno, Nevada, a year ago, I made up my mind to get my master’s degree in Journalism and to get it here in Galway.

Read more: After living in Ireland for almost one year, this is what I’ve learned

It was close to where my relatives are from; it would be a much-needed adventure after putting my own kids through college and for some reason this area seemed to pull me here.

Galway city center.

Galway city center.

I have spent the past 20 years covering politics and business for the CBS affiliate in Reno, Nevada. And I’ve spent nearly three decades raising kids. I’m way passed 50, in fact pushing 60, and I know my kids thought I was nuts to leave behind an Emmy Award-winning career, a settled household and a family to chase a dream.

But it was the right move at the right time. They are independent enough that this is a good time to make that move. I am still young enough to make this move count. Plus, this shows them that dreams are possible whenever you can make them happen.

It hasn’t been a perfect transition by any means. The house I now call home is hardly big enough to invite a friend in to visit. And being oldest in every class here is no picnic but it continues to show me that you never know where life will lead if you just follow the path ahead of you.

Of course, I thought the real push would be to find an Irishman with a castle, who I was convinced, must be here waiting for me.

Well that hasn’t been the case. At least not yet (finger’s crossed).   But what I have found is that I am as at home here, as I ever was in the United States. Of course, I miss my kids and my cat, but this has been just the change I needed at just the right time in life.

I guess I believe that old adage that 'Father Knows Best' (or was that just a TV show?)…Doesn’t matter. I’m here. I’m glad I am. And if my father could be here with me he’d be happy to see that his dream, actually became mine, and that I have followed through to move here to live, and to further my education. Both are causes he believed in.

I am actively looking for relatives in this area and trying to piece together how my Meehans fit into the puzzle. I really hope to meet as many relatives as possible over the next year and a half as I get my degree. 

Oh…and if by chance you are that Irish guy with a castle, who’s no doubt looking for me… I hope to meet you too.

* Erin Breen is an Emmy Award-winning writer currently living in Galway, Ireland. You can find her, more details of her journey and her first two books at ErinMeehanBreen.com.

Strandhill Beach, Sligo.

Strandhill Beach, Sligo.