Across cultures, across generations, across politics and moments in time, this having kids thing–it just cuts through everything. You probably know very little about the Easter Uprising in Ireland. You don’t have to know who Michael Mallin was. You don’t have to know what motivated him to join an armed revolution against the British. You don’t have to know what he did as one of its leaders.
Or maybe you do know, and you disagree. But it’s impossible not to read his final letter and not immediately feel connected to him. Read this paragraph and try not to feel an ache in your heart, try to not picture your own children and your own fate in his position:
“My heartstrings are torn to pieces when I think of you and them of our manly James happy go lucky John shy warm Una dady’s Girl and oh little Joseph my little man Wife dear Wife I cannot keep the tears back when I think of him he will rest in my arms no more…my little man my little man, his name unnerves me again all your dear faces arist before me God bless you God bless you my darlings.”
The last words of a father prior to his execution for doing what he believed was right and just and best for the future of his beloved family. The grammar is rough. The punctuation, non-existent. Yet somehow, you know exactly what he’s trying to say. You can feel the tidal wave of conflicting emotion swallowing him up. The love and dedication, the sacrifice and the softness, the knowing reflection about all the best things, all his favorite things–all about his children, of course–that he will miss forever. We can feel all of these things in Mallin’s last words because, as we’ve said before, we’re all on this same journey together. We’ve been changed in the same way. We’ve had our hearts opened the same way.
This makes us vulnerable, sure…but that is the price of such a precious gift. The gift of true connection, not just to our family but to fathers and families across generations and situations and cultures. It should make us better people, better citizens, better human beings.