Anyone who knew James O’Brien will never forget his wonderful smile, sense of humour and laughter
MURROE-born and Cappamore-raised, the late James O’Brien forged a long and happy life in London.
That was until March 29, 2020, when he was taken from his loving wife Maria and family by Covid-19. His must have been one of the first Limerick lives claimed in the global pandemic.
It was not possible to say goodbye to James or have a proper funeral, so Maria wishes to remember her husband in his local paper on the anniversary of his death. His passing from Covid and the consequences of that made it all the harder for family and friends.
“We were and still are heartbroken - a lovely, friendly, kind, gentle and caring man who died alone with no one to hold his hand, no one to say how much we loved him.
“We never said goodbye. We could not have a proper funeral - only 10 of us were allowed. Friends or extended family were not allowed to visit me or our girls and grandchildren.
“It was and is still just so sad and I am beyond sad. James and I had plans and still things we wanted to do and see, and he was stolen from me. I tell everyone I won the lottery the day I met him,” said Maria.
James was born in Murroe in 1938. He was the youngest son of John and Mary Catherine O’Brien. James had one sister, Kathleen, and four brothers Jack, Paddy, Dan and Gerard. The family moved to Cappamore when James was five. Although born in Murroe, he considered himself a proud Cappamore man.
James left Cappamore when he was nearly 19 and moved to London. Like many Irishmen before him he built a good life for himself in England. He was a master plasterer. He did his apprenticeship with his brother Jack who was also a plasterer.
Maria can vividly recall the first time she would lay eyes on the love of her life.
“I looked over the dance hall at the Galtymore in Cricklewood on a Saturday night and saw this handsome young man. We danced, we laughed – and we fell in love. His laughter and good nature attracted people – a magnet. No one could forget his wonderful smile, sense of humour and laughter.
“We married in June 1967 and were blessed with three gorgeous daughters – Nicola, Emma and Katie and then David joined our family. We were then blessed with our three precious grandchildren – Niamh, Thomas and James. James loved his family. Family life was so important to him. He was always happy when he was surrounded by our large and extended family,” said Maria.
And that family was on both sides of the Irish Sea - in Pinner, Middlesex, and east Limerick. James, Maria and their three daughters, and later with their grandchildren visited Cappamore every year. His sister, Kathleen Clarke and brother, Dan, still live in Cappamore.
James never forgot where he came from. He played hurling in his youth for Cappamore and followed Limerick through the many bad and recent good times. James was also an avid Ireland and Munster rugby supporter - Munster have put up a picture of James in Thomond Park as one of their virtual fans during lockdown - and he was a member of Northwood Golf Club, in Middlesex. Maria had taken up golf in later life and they had plans for long weekends and days out playing golf. She has lost her playing partner and life partner.
James, Maria and their three daughters were in Cappamore in late February 2020, for the funeral of James’ brother Jack. Just four weeks later they had both gone to their God. Maria doesn’t know how he got Covid.
“He was taken into hospital on Saturday, March 14 and given a Covid-19 test. On Sunday, March 15, it was confirmed he had Covid-19,” said Maria.
She would only see her beloved husband one more time, on Saturday, March 28, when he was on end-of-life care. James died the following day.
“It all happened so quickly. We were in Limerick only four weeks earlier and he was so well. Although he was incredibly sad that his brother had died, he had a happy few days with all his family, as we all did.
“There are so many regrets that make my loss so intense. I don't think I will ever get over his death,” said Maria.
During a moving eulogy at his funeral Mass, Maria said James’s ability to make everyone feel comfortable, welcomed and loved were his greatest strengths.
“It has been nearly 53 years since we were first married. I look back over that time with so much happiness. He really was the love of my life.
“Not only was he a wonderful husband, but a wonderful father, grandfather, uncle and best friend – and so much more. I’m not sure I can really express just how much I will miss James,” said Maria.
Those words are as true then as they are now.
May he rest in peace