It was much too late on Sunday, November 26th, 2005 (admittedly it was probably early the 27th) when I first heard the music.
The notes bounced off the the high ceilings and dramatic windows of the Pan Pacific lobby, inspired by the magical fingers of Maestro Eamonn O’Loghlin. Surrounded by a posse of enthusiastic conference goers and some of my staff, Eamonn led us through chorus after chorus of O’Canada, Danny Boy, and American Pie!
I hadn’t seen this side of Eamonn before that night. Until then, I knew him as the super-cheery Director of Sponsorship for the Canadian National Exhibition, who first called me years earlier about an emergency with one of our activations at the Ex. Thankfully the problem passed and even more fortunate for me, a friendship sprung up.
If you knew Eamonn, you knew he was more than a stalwart of our industry. He was a most fierce advocate of all things Irish. Publisher of Irish Connections Canada, host of an Irish radio show, and even interim President of the Irish Canadian Immigration Center. He was an accomplished musician, a tireless volunteer, and a fearless entrepreneur.
But as the keynote speaker at his funeral this week said, words cannot describe Eamonn, for he was larger than life. Yes, I said funeral.
On January 4th, the music died. Suddenly. Tragically. Inexplicably. Eamonn was taken from his admirers.
I’ve just returned from his funeral and my hands are numb as I type this. My fingers don’t want to extend to my keyboard. They are rebelling. Fighting back. Fighting back so hard. Trying to tell me that there is no way Eamonn is dead. My skin tingles. My throat is turned inside out. My chest is in pain.
I think when people die, their obituaries talk about how unique an individual was. How loved they were. I am not doubting that. Every death brings sadness. Every death brings despair. But we also know that most deaths reach a limited pool of people. Not Eamonn’s. No sir, this man was loved. Far. Wide. Universally. Internationally.
His funeral today was easily a thousand people. Last night I waited nearly two hours in line at his visitation. But the wait didn’t bother me. It allowed me to reflect on a great man. A man who had an impact that few of us could ever make. A man who touched hundreds, thousands, and left everyone with a smile. A man who you just wish could join you one last time on a bar stool for a pint or the first tee for a round of eighteen.
He would tease and joke with you, yet still deliver so much to his friends. At the 2010 sponsorship forum in Whistler, it was his word to John Furlong that resulted in the Olympic leader delivering an impromptu speech to my conference delegation. That was probably my most satisfying moment in business. I am not sure if I said thanks to Eamonn…..
Writing this brings me back to that night seven years ago. The sing-song at the Pan Pacific resulted in a hotel security complaint about a “large foreigner” who wouldn’t stop playing the piano and a “man of colour” who kept shouting “I own this hotel”. I think we told any unsuspecting victim this yarn one-hundred times since. I think sometimes that’s the definition of friendship, being able to repeat the same stupid stories and laugh like it was your first telling.
Oh Eamonn, how I would like to tell that story one-hundred and ONE more times with you.