Hiking into the Irish sky
Well, here we are, approaching one year later. It feels like only days have passed but at the same time like it has been a decade.
Flashback to one year ago --
The "elite 8" (as we jokingly-but-not-jokingly call ourselves... that name is never changing by the way) were all in Michigan, celebrating and cherishing our final days and moments with you. You brought up scattering your ashes. We always knew you wanted to be cremated -- you'd tell us you wouldn't want to be anywhere sad and stale like a cemetery where we would have to visit you. It wouldn't suit you, anyway. Your adventure and "joie de vivre" is too everlasting. You made it known to us that you wanted some of your ashes spread on top of Croagh Patrick.
Flashback to several years ago --
2013, the year we took a family trip to Ireland. We spent over a week exploring the "40 shades of green", eating fish + chips, laughing with locals, getting caught in the rain, and even hawking in an Irish castle. What a trip. (All planned by you, needless to say). One fantastic highlight was hiking up Croagh Patrick - Ireland's holy mountain located in County Mayo, where your mom grew up. Just a 4.5 mile 2500 foot elevation gain hike through rocky scramble - a Gallagher family casual activity.
You, Colin, + Grace: the successful ones.
Unfortunately, Dad and I never made it to the top, as he hung back with me when I was feeling miserable ~2/3 of the way up (if you don't know me well, I hate to admit but the winding Irish countryside + my awful motion sickness made for an unpleasant drive prior to hiking).
You all would always laugh and reminisce about how you charged your way up through the rocky scramble, leaving Grace + Colin in the dust. You'd also love to tease me when I'd say how beautiful the view was even where I stopped and say "well, it was even more spectacular at that top!"
Well - how fitting of a location for you to choose to be a part of: unmistakable beauty in its scenery, a tribute to family in a nod to our Irish heritage, an athletic endeavor and challenge, and a sacred place to connect to our faith.... kind of reminds me of you in a way.
Flashback to just a few weeks ago --
A trip, a year in the making. As we signed up for google alerts and dug through travel websites and government guidance, none of us were completely sure this would even have been possible. But we kept the faith. Our trip (booked for months and months ahead of schedule) was to depart on July 28th. Ireland officially opened to US vaccinated travellers on July 19th -- if that wasn't you intervening in someway I don't know what is! We spent an unbelievable trip, still enjoying the "40 shades of green", eating fish + chips, laughing with locals, getting caught in the rain, and even hawking in an Irish castle. Our trip looked slightly different this time, now with Justin, Jess, and Drew all here. "A family honeymoon" with the newlyweds - Colin + Jess. What a special time (I mean, when they say you marry someone's family, that means a family honeymoon, right guys??)
When we arrived on that morning to hike, I didn't realize we would be blessed by your presence so soon. Looking up at the midpoint of Croagh Patrick, all there was was a gigantic cloud that covered the entirety of that mountain. And so we took off, with raincoats, bellies full of Irish breakfast, Colin's emergency medical kit, and walking sticks in hand. We laughed through the windy mist and changing weather conditions, reveled in the beauty of the landscape, and huffed and puffed our way through the elevation (Grace, of course, carrying you on her back -- who else would!)
As we approached the top, we all stood in wonder of an absolute cloud.... Perhaps you were playing another joke on me not letting me catch that gorgeous view this time around! But really, it was the perfect view.
Our family, one with the Irish sky.
We found a quiet place where it felt like we were up in the heavens, memorialized your spot with a cross, and played your song, "Sheila in the Sky". Laughing and crying and catching our breath, celebrating a one-of-a-kind woman with a one-of-a-kind family.
So, here you go, Mom! A Gallagher family vacation full of food, exploration, laughter, exercise, and unforgettable memories. And of course, full of a little bit of chaos (like almost not making a flight back home, lost luggage, bike crashes, and falls).
Slainte as always,