With rare and unique access, this surprisingly uplifting documentary looks at how we deal with death and the rituals that follow through the life of Seosamh Ó Conchúir, former manager of Club Chonradh na Gaeilge, and through his families’ journey.
Director, Mairéad Ní Thréinir, films with Seosamh in Our Lady’s hospice where he is to spend his final days. With a glint in his eye, he reflects on his life and enjoys listening to his favourite pieces of music and spending time with close friends and family.
This is a documentary that everyone will identify with on some level. It is about more than death and rituals. It is about a man who lived a full life but only came to realise how important he was to others when faced with his own mortality, which is often the case. This film is now part of Seosamh’s legacy.
Seosamh was diagnosed with Cancer in June 2018. The cancer was at a late stage so he started chemo straight away. From then on he spent most of his days in hospital. In September, Seosamh made the tough decision, with the advice of his oncologist and the support of his family, not to continue with chemo and he moved to Our ladies Hospice in Harold’s Cross. This is when the documentary team met him and he agreed to the making of a film. In typical fashion, his only question was: “why would anyone want to make a film about me?” A question that now makes Mairéad laugh as the love and admiration that surrounded him quickly became apparent in the days that followed.
After just two days filming with him, Mairéad got an unexpected call from Seosamh’s brother Philip to say that he had stopped talking and was in “the final stages”. He invited her back to the hospice to film with the family. Sadly, Seosamh passed away that evening. Amazingly, he held on until every one of his seven siblings was in the room with him, some of them having flown in from different countries.
The film follows Seosamh to his final resting place, reflecting with his family and friends through the wake, funeral and burial, all of which are touching and traditionally Irish. His family and friends talk honestly and openly about his death and how all of the rituals that come after helped them to get through each day.
Seosamh’s brother Philip said: ‘The filming was a great highlight for Joe in the final week of his life, an important event for him. He didn’t say this, but his quiet pride and joy was obvious. Mairéad’s filming followed us through those last days, and through the weeks of ritual and mourning that followed, always unobtrusively but always there, in a strangely very comforting kind of way. It just felt right. This was probably because for us it was like a much deserved
tribute to our brother, of a type that could not be bettered, and of which he himself could imagine nothing better – as Gaeilge, with TG4. Sure what on earth could beat that!’
Director Mairéad Ní Thréinir said: ‘My main aim when making this film was to treat Seosamh and his family with sensitivity and respect. I was bowled over by how open and honest Seosamh and his family were throughout the filming. Personally, it was a hard documentary to make on many levels, it was easy to get swept away by emotion, but it never felt like I was intruding or unwelcome; another testament to the family. This is Seosamh’s story, but it is also a story about death and how we deal with it and about Irish traditions.’
Eleanor Flew, Director of Fundraising and Communications at Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, said, “One of the central features of palliative care is listening to patients and supporting them to achieve their goals. With this in mind, we were delighted to help Joe in his wish to be involved in ‘Scéal na Beatha’ as this very special project was close to his heart and important for Joe and his family.”
The film was produced by Máire Bhreathnach and Mairéad Ní Thréinir and Executive Produced by Michael Fanning. The film was edited by Declan McGrath.
Produced by Below The Radar with support from Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund.