Oh, Danny Boy

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Daniel J. Shortall passed away on Thursday, April 25 after a rather sudden, devastating, and senseless illness.

My cousin was but 47 years-old.  Much too young to leave his family and friends; he was one of the youngest of a rather large herd of cousins, who trace their roots through a double-digit sized brood of Shortalls, who lived in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.

As with many Irish Catholic families, the playing of Danny Boy is often a part of saying goodbye.  That his name was actually Danny made this particular rendition – in bagpipes no less – so much more poignant.

But truth be told, I didn’t know Danny very well.  Being a decade younger than me, I was more familiar with his older brothers and sisters.  Much of what I do know about him came from studying the array of pictures, now popular at many viewings and funerals, that attempt to present a mosaic of the deceased’s life.

It gives visitors a sense of who the person was; what they loved to do; and who they loved.  Personally, I believe part of it’s value is giving surviving family members a chance to relive those moments that meant so much to them and the loved one they have lost.

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Danny in front of
“Touchdown Jesus!”

In any case, the biggest single thing I learned was that Danny really, really, really liked the University of Notre Dame‘s football program!  A rite of passage for many Irish Americans …

For this side of my extended family, who trace their roots through a double-digit sized brood that inhabited the Germantown section of Philadelphia up until the 1960s, Fighting Irish football was THE football outlet, long before the professionals became local headliners.

My father had the ND bug; and although it didn’t take with me, it certainly did with my brother.  At times it is so strong, you can almost hear the “Rudy” chant!

Throughout the years as with many large families, it becomes a practical impossibility to keep tabs on everyone, let alone maintain close ties.  Several cousins have tried to hold regular gatherings in the past.  It works for a while, then the demands of Life take over and those good intentions slip away.

Then the only time you see each other is at funerals.

After reading through this several times, as is my habit before I post, I realize I haven’t said much of anything about Danny.  That’s a bit sad – I guess – yet honest given the circumstances.

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What I can conclude about Danny is this …

One measure of a life lived is the people who have come to love and respect you in the course of your travels.  If a person has interacted with those whose paths they have crossed with Honesty and Sincerity, the people you touched will honor you when you depart this earthly existence.

From the number of people who came to pay their respects this past Tuesday and Wednesday, Danny Shortall was greatly respected and incredibly loved!

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