This is the coach stop that really got to me, wrestled my heart to the ground, and stepped on it with both feet. And I truly didn’t see it coming. The people at YMT didn’t see it coming either, as it wasn’t on the official itinerary.
There were no bathrooms, so that wasn’t the reason we stopped here. There was barely a place to back the motor coach off the tiny, twisting road to the Cliffs of Moher, just a mile or so short of the area’s main attraction. But the driver, a born and raised Irishman, knew much about this place, and he was willing (and eager) to share it with a busload of virtual strangers from North America.
As it turned out, it was one of the most spiritually powerful moments of my entire Irish adventure.
This particular “Well of St. Brigid” (there are many throughout Ireland, some with different spellings) was a small, cramped space, cut into the hillside to access a natural spring. Our guide had briefly mentioned it the day before, telling us that visitors often leave a sign of gratitude, or a message, or a petition to their departed, that St. Brigid may grant their wishes and their heartfelt prayers shall be answered.
I didn’t write anything down. I barely gave it another thought until we arrived at the shrine, “guarded” by a glass-encased, life-size statue of St. Brigid, surrounded by manicured shrubs and a cobbled walkway.
The entrance to the cave-like well was clean and whitewashed and belied what secrets it held. I ducked my head to step inside, where it was dimly lit by candles, and it took a moment for my eyes to adjust. And once I could see, I was absolutely speechless. The interior walls were covered with memorabilia of the departed—photos, toys, movie tickets, notes, cards, memorial folders, ad infinitum.
I teared up, remembering the card I’d had buried with Rick’s ashes at Willamette National Cemetery, and that I’d tucked his movie discount card into the envelope.
When my turn came at the well, I started tossing my lesser coins into the holy water, one by one. Mom, Aunt Jo, Rick, Bobby, Alex… It seemed the list would never end. But with each plunk of the coin, I whispered, “Thank you for our time together. You are missed every single day.” The tears streamed down my face. (A lot like they are doing as I write this now.)
I turned and left quietly, skipped the steps leading to the cemetery above, and climbed back on the bus. As the other passengers boarded, the mood was eerily somber. Many were softly crying, the only sound an occasional sniffle. Joe started the bus, drove a few hundred yards in silence, then said into the mic, “God bless each of you, and God bless your departed loved ones.”
In a few more minutes, we pulled into the parking lot at the Cliffs of Moher, and the spell was broken. But I will not soon forget the impact of that sacred place.