Murphy loses an Irish soul
I’d like to tell you about a good friend of mine. He wasn’t a mover and shaker in town, didn’t serve on any government boards and didn’t own a large business. He was a retired salesman after a successful career, but also didn’t mind working as a Walmart cashier. He was quick with a smile, slow to frown and one of the funnest people to be around that I’ve ever had the good fortune to hang out with.
He was Paul Donovan, my favorite Irishman, and I miss him every day. That’s because on Feb. 11, my friend left this world on his last adventure. He was 74, but the kid inside never acted like it.
Paul ventured to the great beyond after complications from colon cancer surgery, but how he died is not as important as how he lived. “There is no time to be unhappy,” Paul once told Terri Day, “and smile because it looks good on you.” If you have spent any time at The Daily Grind & Wine, Parson’s Pub, Chevelles or Doyle’s Cedar Hill Restaurant, you couldn’t help but see his excitement on nights when there was live entertainment.
I met Paul not long after I arrived at the Cherokee Scout exactly 14 years ago today. I wrote a column he liked, he wrote a letter to the editor I liked and we got together for lunch to talk about it. Those lunches became regular occasions, something to look forward to because it always would be the highlight of my day.
We talked about how politics and religion should unite us, not divide us. We talked about reading good books and writing poetry. We talked about music. We talked about Ireland, his motherland, and how much he enjoyed traveling there. We talked about reiki, a natural method to heal our broken bodies, of which he was a master. We laughed about the fact that both of us somehow had performed marriage ceremonies.
But, most of all, we talked about how life is something to revel in every day, about love and family. If you knew Paul, you also know his wonderful wife, Ann. They couldn’t have been more different in their personalities, yet they clicked and enjoyed each other’s company like few couples I’ve ever known. Bless her.
Many people shared fond memories of Paul on Facebook, which would have embarrassed him a bit. “Paul was simply the most loving human being I have ever known,” close friend Shelly Stephens said. Local singer/songwriter Heidi Holton summed it up well.
“I went to sleep last night knowing that when I woke up this morning, my dear friend Paul Donovan would be gone,” Holton wrote. “I expected that the world would feel darker today, which is what usually happens when we lose someone we love. The thing is – Paul shone so brightly, emanated such big, powerful love, that the familiar, heartbreaking emptiness just isn’t there. My heart is heavy today, but that’s because it’s so incredibly full.
“I am grateful beyond words that I was given the opportunity to experience Paul’s kindness, wisdom, compassion, acceptance and connection. He gave these gifts to our community freely and without discrimination, expecting nothing in return. How lucky are we to have watched Paul dance, to have witnessed the passionate love he shared with the lovely Ann, to have learned from his example how to be better human beings?”
While Paul’s dancing was not something Arthur Murray would embrace as an example of technical brilliance, the unabashed joy in which he moved couldn’t help but make you feel good. He always seemed to be surrounded by women on the dance floor and loved every minute of it.
Some people go their entire lives without finding out what they were meant for in this world. Paul, however, got it – he was here to help people, and have a real good time doing it. He helped me become a better man. When I grow up, I want to be just like him.
My last lunch with Paul was at ShoeBooties Cafe the week before his surgery was scheduled. He wasn’t overly concerned about going under the knife, but was none too pleased about not being able to dance for a while. He enjoyed his usual glass of wine, while I gorged on my usual lobster bisque. We laughed – a lot. And I’m glad it was my turn to buy.
I come from a touchy-feely kind of family that hugs a lot, and my Granddaddy always kissed his son and grandsons on the cheek. As we left the restaurant, I gave Paul a hug – then lightly kissed him on the cheek. I wasn’t planning to, it just happened naturally. That was goodbye, because I was out of town dealing with my mother’s illness when Paul transitioned to the next world and never saw him again. But I will one day.
St. Patrick’s Day is Friday, and it won’t be the same this year. I’ll miss seeing Paul and Ann decked out in green, going from one place to another to eat, drink and be merry, while sharing Celtic wisdom and limericks between dances. But Paul’s positive energy will be out there somewhere.
When my daughter gets married later this year and I share a special dance with her, I’ll look up to the heavens and smile, knowing my friend is saying, “It’s about time!”
David Brown is publisher of the Cherokee Scout. You can reach him by phone, 837-5122; fax, 837-5832; email, email@example.com; or message him on Twitter