Saying Goodbye: A Painful Day

E-mail Harrigan

Nov. 29, 2005 9:04 a.m.

Shot of wheatgrass
Apple/Carrot juice

I asked the guy for wheatgrass in the apple-carrot. He said no, that would clash with something in the apple. He suggested taking the wheatgrass separately, swishing it around the gums, then waiting a few minutes before drinking the apple-carrot. He had an apprentice juicemaker with him. I deferred to his expertise with a silent nod, paid, and went out to get the paper with exact change, $1.07.

When I got back a tiny, dark green shot in a paper container like the ones that hold tartar sauce was on the counter. I did the shot. I guess they made extra wheatgrass because the master and the apprentice also each did a shot behind the counter. The heads kicked back, the arms flew up. I didn't notice any swhishing around the gums.

Nov. 22, 2005 11:13 a.m.

I had a rental, a Taurus, but I had my Magellan with me. I programmed in the funeral home under the name Rose. I had been there once for embalming and once with clothes: Pants, socks, shirt, tie, jacket. The jacket and shirt were on a hanger. The rest was in a bag. I handed them to a woman inside and said, "This is for my father."

The third trip was with my mother. She was usually ready first, but this time I waited behind the wheel. She got in and I didn't look over. Her shoulders started to shake.

"Ma, I wish I could take this pain away from you, but I just can't," I said.

I put the car in reverse and we made a silent drive to the mortuary. The only sound was the voice on the Magellan telling me when to turn.

They put our cars in a line and everyone turned their lights on. It was a short ride to the church. When we came out on the main road a guy in his car thought about cutting ahead, then threw his hands at the wheel. I looked in his direction, but would not look at his face.

My family sat in the front pew on the right. I could not look up during the walk down the aisle and now closed my eyes. At different points during the prayers or the songs, my mother's shoulders shook and there was not a thing I could do to help. I squeezed my eyes shut trying to close my whole face, but it was a searing pain.

My seven-year-old niece was on my left and when I opened my eyes I saw she had tilted her head to look up at me. She was worried about me. Her concern gave me a sense of the presence of the divine.

The coffin was then turned away from the altar and we came out into brilliant blue Tennessee sky. I walked off to the right of my family and stood on the stone steps. They put the coffin into the back of the hearse and closed the door carefully. It was a Cadillac. My dad always liked Cadillacs. I started breathing loudly and felt like I was going to break in half. I didn't want people to see me cry, so I walked over to the car and started to get in — but that would be wrong, that would be running away. I had to thank my cousins for being pallbearers. I shook all their hands. I had wanted to say, "Thank you for doing this for my father," but all I could say was, "Thanks."

Nov. 18, 2005 4:31 a.m.
Knoxville, TN

As the second of three sons I had a few chips to play. I wanted Joe Murray in as pallbearer. He loved my father. I mentioned his name to my sister-in-law who was on my left and taking down notes on a checkbook. His name slipped a couple of times but I kept bringing it back up until he seemed to be in as one of the six.

My other thought was a role for Joe Harrigan. He was one of the New York Harrigan side coming. I suggested second reading and he got that. My mother asked him on the phone and he told her he would be honored to do it. I nodded to myself.

I overshot with the music. They were going with Ave Maria and two other religious songs. My father liked Sweet Caroline and Starry Starry Night. I thought he would like them at his funeral but my mother tabled the idea with an angry look. The Chop was uncharacteristically diplomatic in front of the priest, but later on back at the house he gave it to me in front of my cousin.

"How many funerals have you been to where they play Sweet Caroline," he said. My cousin laughed quietly. He had seen The Chop give it to me for 40 years, back to the days when he was always Batman and I was always Robin.

Hush and I spent a good part of the day buying food. Hush is my mother's sister and despite two replaced knees is an able wingman. Our first trip was to Kroger's then to a liquor store. It was going to be an Irish wake and an Irish funeral, so whatever Hush put in the cart I added more. It was a beautiful blue Tennessee sky. A great day to be alive, I said quietly to myself, pushing the empty cart back to the store.

Nov. 17, 2005 4:34 a.m.
Knoxville, TN

I never heard my older brother cry. As an eight-year-old short-fielder on the Cubs baseball team, I played just to his right and a few yards back. I cried sometimes after a strikeout, almost always after a loss. Not Ken.

So it was hard to figure out what was happening for a second when his voice stopped. I looked at my phone for a second. I moved closer to the window.

"Come home," he forced out, then he couldn't say anymore.

Nov. 14, 2005 1 p.m.

Staring at a photo of the woman bomber in Jordan. In the still photo she opens her robe to show the bomb belt. A news report details the contents of the belt and her movements, but even after her own words on video I just don't get it, and it scares me.

I walked in and out of several hotels here yesterday. Out in front of some a bellman might smile and nod, in front of others, nothing. It's hard to imagine that all of this won't change.

The day after the U.N. headquarters got blown up in Baghdad a spokesman came out and explained why they did not want U.S. tanks out in front of the building. He said the U.N. depended on the free flow of people in and out of their offices — he did not want people to feel intimidated. He said this while standing out in front of a U.N. building that had just been blown up, with U.N. personnel inside killed. I was stunned by the fact that he still didn't get it. But it's a tough thing to get, that people want to kill you.

I remember in a small village on the Pakistan/Afghan border I rented a dirt house to stay in with Slim Fagen and a fixer, before we could get into Kandahar. On the first afternoon the fixer came flying in, saying we had to leave, that the people had heard Americans were in the village. I thought, "How annoying," and looked around at all the stuff that we would have to re-pack. As we slowly started to gather it up, the fixer said, "No, you don't get it, we have to leave now, they are coming to the house."

I didn't get it then and I don't get it now. It's a hard thing to get, that people want to kill you. I've stayed in the Amman Hyatt 50 times, aware of no real security out front, aware that it is a staging ground for Westerners going in or out of Iraq, but I never really worried about it, even after being in bad places for most of the past four years. It's a hard thing to get, that people want to kill you.

E-mail Harrigan

I just read your articles regarding your dad. I am currently facing the same situation and, while I am older than you, I understand the wrenching emptiness that you feel. My dad may have a few more weeks. While he is very weak, he still wants to see his FOX News everyday. Your dad would be very proud of you. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.


Dear Steve,

All of us who have lost a dad know how deep a hole that makes in our lives. I turned 70 today. It won't be too many years before my four kids will also know the loss.

I want to thank you for your work. I remember vividly your reporting from the early days in Afghanistan. You brought me to FOX. I tuned into FOX News as often as possible to catch your reports. I have been a FOX follower ever since. O'Reily, Hume, and Hannity may be great. You are the best.

Belmont, NH

If there's one thing I've learned after losing both parents, it is that kindness from anyone - even strangers - helps ease the pain. As I sat crying with friends of my mother's who I had never met, I found myself seeing a side of her I had never seen. Hopefully the kindness of your readers will help ease your pain as well. Your message touched me today. You made a difference.

Mary - Ferguson, MO

Sorry to hear about your Dad, I was in Iraq when I got the Red Cross message saying come home. Thanks to some great people on both military and commercial aircraft I made it home. My Father passed away 2 days later in my arms. Although the pain never completely goes away, time does ease the horrible feeling in your heart and there are days now that I can think of my Dad and smile. God Bless you and yours.


My Daddy was a die-hard CUBS fan, and at his funeral all the pall bearers wore their "colors", as did many of the mourners, (be it CUBS, Cards, Reds) and he had on his favorite Sammy Sosa jersey. He was wheeled out of the church to "Take me out to the Ball game." Remember him, and go ahead and cry.


You know, the time for the stuff you remember is when you aren't dealing with the rest of them. I still have my parents, but I find myself sitting at my dining room table, thinking of my grandmother. It used to be hers, and I spent hours at it when she was with me, and now it's in my house, and so is she. I think the music works the same way. Yake the joy, and use the sadness.


Hello Mr. Harrigan,

I am sorry for your loss and I am glad you decided to write about it. Sometimes, you almost seem to seek out danger in your reports and, since I like you -- and respect your work as a reporter -- I hope your father's passing affirms your sense of life, as you wrote when pushing the cart on that beautiful Tennessee day.

For what it's worth, I think Sweet Caroline and Starry Starry Night are a fine idea. Your dad had good taste and, though I do not know you, I think he had a fine son, too.


So sorry to hear of your father’s passing. My prayers are with you. At the end of my Irish husband’s services in the church the closing song was “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”. It was a beautiful send off to my “proud of being Irish” husband.

Abbeville, LA

So sorry to hear about your loss. Please be assured of our thoughts and prayers for you and your family during this difficult time. I have appreciated your reports over the years. My favorite was the report you did a couple of years ago on the Congo. Keep up the good work.



I cannot imagine the pain that you are going through. My pop is 78 years old and when I look at him I cannot fathom that one day I will have to give him up. We are really close and we do as much as we can together. But, nevertheless my heart goes out to you and your family. Take care of your mom and your niece and keep your dad in your heart.

Thanks for all of the good reporting.


Dear Mr. Harrigan:

Your family has suffered a great loss; Faith and Truth will help you continue in your marvelous life; a life that sprung from a fine man and a fine woman. Try to find some humorous parts in the heartache of saying good bye. My father passed away 3 yrs. ago today(Thanksgiving would have been his 78th b-day) I will never forget when 4 out of the 6 of us siblings went with my mom to pick out his coffin. It was like something out of a B-movie. We all had different opinions on style; I liked the shiney green one that reminded me of his Green Mercury Marquis. Well, fortunately we ended up with a beautiful Cherry coffin(weighed a ton!) for this fine man, a coffin for this well deserved 1950 grad of the Univ. of Notre Dame. Please don't forget to laugh , cry and talk, talk, talk about your father.

Your the best! and all the best to your family!


I don't regularly read the blogs, but the headline on yours caught my eye. Today would have been my dad's 79th birthday. When he died, I told my husband that I felt like I was going to break in half. I guess some life experiences affect us all in the same ways.

Take Care,
L. S. from GA.

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