A Death In The Family

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Peter Riordan and Terry Healy on their wedding day in 2014. Peter is wearing the same military suit he wore when commissioned into the Defence Forces in 1961

This afternoon.

Slightly Bemused writes:

It is with great sadness that I have to report the passing of my father. Thankfully, he died peacefully, with two of my brothers with him, and another on stream. The hospital were fantastic, and put him in an isolation room so family could visit, which would not have been possible in a ward. Ironically, it was the room beside the one I had just spent a week in, but I could not visit him.

It is strange what comes to mind at times like this. My mother had a miscarriage when I was 6, and was rushed to hospital. My Dad, who normally barracked in Cathal Brugha, was let out to mind the horde. It could not last, so we were being farmed out to various relatives, starting overnight with my aunt who lived up the road.

First we knew was Dad making hot dogs (well, sausages in a bread bun, but my first experience) at about 11 pm with hot Coleman’s English mustard and Chef tomato sauce, followed by jelly and custard. Then all into the Cortina still in our jammies and up to our aunt. Some while we were eating, Dad had packed our holiday sleeping bags in the boot, and we ended up having a sleepover with our cousins. Years before 24 hour TV and VCRs, so horror stories it was. And Dad was gone.

Caught up in that moment as a six year old, I never noticed his concern, or that of my aunt, or that his disappearance was to be as close to his wife’s side as he could be. We were taken care of, so he could now concentrate entirely on my mother.

Today, we are all grown and can take care of ourselves, but it was lovely to see that same concern in his new wife, my step-mother’s face as she sought to tend him. Now is our turn to rally around her.

Well past his reserve status, he needed the permission of the Chief of Staff to wear his dress uniform on their wedding day. He asked if he could have his lanyard cleaned. They sent him a new one. They sent a Captain to take pictures, including the one (above). When doing such duties, members of the Defence Forces do not wear their head gear, as this absents them from military protocol.

On that day, the Captain, in her Number One uniform, deliberately put on her cap as my Dad left the Church. He was a Commandant, and this meant she had to give him a salute. He was surprised, but of course returned it. A small thing, it meant a lot. Not just to him, but to what they thought of him.

In my own work I later met the officer who received that request. He told me of the reaction at the highest levels of the Army. There was no question he would not be allowed wear his dress uniform. My father had been one of the Chief of Staff’s instructors. The Irish Defence Forces are small, but very cohesive.

Naturally enough the days and even weeks to come will be full and likely fraught. As a result, for now I have to step back from any thoughts of a column, or the next would be morbid as anything. Maybe it needs to be, but not with this frame of mind.

He was the man who did more to shape me than I even realise.

Pic: Defence Forces

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31 thoughts on “A Death In The Family

  1. Janet, dreams of an alternate universe

    Slightly, what a beautiful tribute, and what a handsome couple,
    my sincere condolences, be good to yourself,
    we will be right here when you get back, don’t be gone too long x

  2. Bebe

    So very sorry to hear of your dad’s passing Slightly. What a beautiful tribute and lovely photo of a happy, proud couple. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Those are difficult days, full of flooding memories, laughter amid tears, stories among tributes; and then the deafening silence of absence. Thinking of you through those times. Be safe and well and take as much time as you need.

  3. GiggigyGoo

    Condolences Slightly. That brought a tear to my eye. Reminds me of the lyrics to a Dougie McClean song.
    “I’m talking with my father
    He’s talking with his son
    And I don’t need to look any further
    For the one I have become”

    How true.

  4. realPolithicks

    Sincere condolences to you and your family Slightly, take care of yourself.

  5. Birdie

    Deepest condolences to you and your family Slightly Bemused. Look after yourself xo

  6. Clampers Outside

    And from what little I know of you Slightly you’re the shape of a man your Dad would be proud of, I’m sure.
    Lovely tribute. May your Da rest in peace.

  7. Kate

    Rest in Peace , Mr Riordan. You appear to have left respect and love — one of the nicest legacies surely of all.
    Condolences Slightyl Bemused. on your loss.

  8. Olga

    Very sorry for your loss and the wretched pain, Slightly Bemused. Beautiful picture and lovely tribute. Sounds like he was a kind father.

  9. Liam Deliverance

    A lovely piece as always Slightly, well done. My sincere sympathies on your loss, I have suffered the same loss myself in recent months. From your last paragraph I can tell you are already heading towards some level of reconciliation, it’s a painful road at first but each days softens just a little and, sure, once you are heading in the right direction it’s only a matter of time.Take care of yourself.

    Condolences to all of Peter’s family and friends, Rest in Peace Sir.

  10. Jdawgs

    Lovely to read this. Sounds like a real great man. My deepest respects to you and your family.

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