Since his death last week, I’ve been haunted by Seamus Heaney. He even visited me last night in a dream, where his kindly, smiling presence was comforting and consoling.
I met him once, in a crowd of writers, standing up to meet me and shake my hand, with a smile and a pint beside him. Even though he was welcoming and warm, I felt terrified. He stood well over six foot, he was a god among poets, and he was waiting for me to say something. All I could think of to share was that my daughter admired his poetry [I was ashamed to say I had never read any of it].
His last words, texted from his hospital bed to his wife, speak also to me: Do not be afraid.
I sometimes feel scared of my mortality, of saying goodbye for ever, of no longer being a living writer. He seems to have died quickly and with dignity, unexpectedly, leaving us all wanting more. I salute you, Seamus. And I intend to read your poetry this autumn. So when we meet in heaven, I won’t be too embarrassed to shake your hand.