Early on Saturday morning, May 29 last, a dark cloud descended over Tooreen and Aghamore when news came filtering through that Adrian Freeman had lost his young life in an accident, far away in Australia. Young and old were enveloped in a state of terrible shock, numb with sadness and grief, unable to find the words to comprehend such tragic news.
Tears fell freely and uncontrollably, a natural and immediate response from bodies shaken to the core with heart-break and disbelief. After trying to come to terms with the initial blow, thoughts turned to the family, Seamus, Ita, Louise and Cathal and the unimaginable turmoil and trauma they were going through.
Our thoughts turned to Adrian. Amidst the tears, memories came flooding back. Gifted sportsman, outstanding hurler and footballer. It all came so natural to him. It was innate, it was in the genes. He had it all; it was in the feet, it was in the hands, it was in the head, but most of all it was in the heart. And as our tears softened we began to savour the many wonderful moments on the field that Adrian’s short life evoked.
Adrian was a pure artist, the hurling and football field was his stage, where he found expression for his extraordinary talent. When Adrian gained possession, play was frozen for a moment. Then there was the shuffle of those magical feet, a swerve, a shimmy, a side-step and invariably a score. People just stood and admired.
Those who played with and against him were in unison, what a privilege and honour it was to have played on the same team, on the same pitch. All were united in admiration, not just, for the way he played the game, but for the way he conducted himself. A true sportsman, an example to all.
And then those who really knew him turned their thoughts to Adrian, the person. Suddenly, the pain and hurt and the sense of loss became almost unbearable. Words like quiet, genuine, unassuming, calm, gentle, came easily and readily to mind.
Of all the fruits of the spirit, goodness is perhaps the greatest. For it contains the seeds from which all of the others grow and develop. Those who really knew Adrian were deeply and indelibly touched by his goodness which radiated quietly from his calm and serene presence. It came as natural as his prowess on the field. It wasn’t false or put on, it wasn’t superficial. It came from the heart. It was as genuine as it was real.
It wasn’t in Adrian’s nature to be loud or boastful, to judge or condemn. He didn’t court or demand attention. He was completely at ease with himself. For that he earned universal respect. Even when the referee failed to see the timely tug on his jersey or the late pull of the hurley, there was no loud protestation, just a silent stare in the direction of the official.
The lives of good people have a profound and immeasurable effect on all of us. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know Adrian are better people because of it. Many young people came, a number of times, to Tooreen church in the last few weeks, seeking comfort and solace and some kind of meaning in the sanctity and sanctuary of the church and the Mass. Like all of us, they were lost for words. All of them will treasure the wonderful memories they have of Adrian which they will carry with them, where ever life’s journey takes them. I’m certain that they will also bring with them, something of the goodness of Adrian.
Adrian had a great sense of fun and wit which his friends witnessed and appreciated, especially on social occasions or weekends away. His big smile would light up the room as he stood quietly, enjoying the craic or intervening with some well timed comment.
In his beautiful poem, ‘In Memory of my Mother’, Patrick Kavanagh writes lovingly of his deceased mother. These lines are particularly apt:
“And I see you walking along a headland of green oats in June, so full of repose, so rich with life.”
Adrian’s short time on earth was so full of repose, so rich with life. He had an aura of calm and control which had a profound effect on those who shared his company.
In his spare time he did some farming chores. We see him driving the tractor slowly and leisurely around the field above the house, all done at his own pace and in his own time. We see him walking along the road from Kinnegha to Aghatarn, herding cattle, hurling stones left and right. The Cuchulainn of Kinnegha.
These many memories on and off the field will help to heal the hurt, lessen the pain in the weeks and months ahead. Ita, Seamus, Louise and Cathal will find him close to them nurturing and sustaining their broken hearts in moments of great sorrow. In time, with God’s help, those broken hearts will heal and be filled with peace and hope.
I referred to Adrian as an artist. I’m reminded of a few lines from that beautiful song ‘Vincent’ written about the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh: “This world was never meant, for one as beautiful as you.”
Adrian Hession, in his moving tribute to Adrian, wrote of the Lord’s need for a star corner forward to fill his championship team. Twink, as he was affectionately known, got the call because he had all the attributes. Perhaps the Lord needed a shining star to light up the dark skies in these difficult and daunting times.
Adrian’s star will shine brightly over Tooreen and Aghamore. And how will we know it’s Adrian’s star? We’ll just stand and stare and watch it … Twinkle. – JC