I met Sinead about three months ago now, and even though I feel a bit strange telling ‘rumbling’ readers this, the truth is I haven’t really got over it. I suppose to say she was gorgeous is a real cliche, but I am trying to find words and, unusually for me, I am not having much success.
As it happened we were both waiting in Ciampino airport in Rome on the same plane, that ended up delayed for nearly four hours. As anyone who knows me will testify I could sleep on a pin head. True to form, once I knew there would be no movement for a while I settled down for a good sleep. I really don’t know how long I was sleeping when I became conscious of a smell I never had before. I think I had been pulling it into a dream and that I was in a field of these little delicate flowers. I now know the smell was a perfume called ‘Daisy Love’, which I had never heard of. I have smelt it twice since then and feel a little embarrassed to admit that on each occasion I looked around for Sinead. On both occasions I felt a little sickly heart twinge on realising that some other girls have also discovered ‘Daisy Love’.
My nose tickled and wrinkled as I battled the perfume and then even though only semi-awake I was becoming conscious of a light weight pressing against my right shoulder. As I opened my eyes ever so slightly I realised that a girl who had been sitting beside me had obviously, totally unintentionally, herself nodded off and was now sleeping against my shoulder.
What to do? I mean I had absolutely no problem with this lovely lady resting her head against me. I would say my growing concern was more around how she herself would react, would she be embarrassed? Angry? Maybe she might even blame me. The other part of me was wondering was it mean to pull away or push away, was it somehow ungracious? Was it unchivalrous? Surely providing a shoulder to sleep on, was similar to providing a shoulder to cry on. Was my shoulder not in the tradition of the gallant gentleman’s cloak cast onto the mud for the lady to tip over to dry land. Yeah that’s it, I was a modern day Lancelot. Dilemma solved.
No sooner than I had calmed my mental see-sawing than there was a stirring beside me.
‘Oh I am so sorry! My apologies. I completely conked out there. I am really sorry!’
I think at that point I was fairly bowled over by her smile, her eyes and her voice, and if the order matters then I think that’ll do.
The next hour and a half went by very fast indeed.
‘So how long was I sleeping on your shoulder?’
‘Oh I dunno, I didn’t notice until the weight of your head… and then the snoring and…I suppose about two hours’
‘Oh my God I am so embarrassed!’
‘Hey relax I am joking probably only about ten or fifteen minutes.’
I could see her noticing my black clothes.
‘Oh my God, are you a priest, Oh Father I am so sorry!’
‘Actually it’s Your Grace’
‘Sorry?’ Please tell me your not a Bishop!’
We laughed at that and more. We talked and we talked and gradually the encounter went deeper.
Whilst Sinead and I did not celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation we certainly met in the realm of the sacramental and the sacred. I was privileged to hear both her joy and her pain. I was very conscious of her sacrifice, in her deep care of people in her life who surely need her. Yet with all this, I was struck by her loneliness and her hope for something more. We resolved to pray for each other, that she might be surprised by the Lord in finding a good husband and that I might with each passing year become a better priest.