Irish man drops a pebble from his brother’s grave in each country he visits to remember him: ‘These are places I wish I could have seen with him’
An Armagh man who lost his younger brother last year has begun a heart-warming tradition to honour his memory.
Conleth McAlinden (22) lost his brother Tomas (15) in December 2014 after a prolonged illness but has decided to leave a pebble from his grave in each new place they wanted to visit together.
Tomas was born with a rare genetic disorder that led to issues culminating in kidney problems later in life.
“I lost my brother last December. He had kidney problems all of his life and about four years ago I discovered he wouldn’t be so long for this world," said Conleth from Aghagallon.
“He was so happy go lucky and a little bit of a celebrity in school. Everyone used to say he was my mini-me.
“Our family friends lost a son to cancer a few years ago and I remember they brought stones from his grave on religious pilgrimages.
“I thought it was a nice idea and decided to do that this summer during my travels so I would think of Tomas.”
The recent graduate and his family travelled to Singapore, Muscat, Penang and Singapore this summer which Conleth revealed were some of the best days of his life.
“I came home from university and my dad asked if I was free. He had booked a holiday for four of us and my sister’s fiancé as well as my girlfriend.
“Of course Tomas was always on our mind but it was a chance to recharge after a really tough year. It allowed us to tick things off our bucket list.
“We didn’t know how we would manage without Tomas. But I felt as though he was with us the whole time,” said Conleth.
This summer Conleth spent seven weeks in San Francisco where he celebrated what would have been Tomas’ sixteenth birthday overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
“I just stood at the foot of the bridge looking across the bay. It was one of them moments you want to last forever. I took a breath, grabbed the stone in my pocket, kissed it and let it soar through the air hitting the water about 30ft from where I was standing. A day I had honestly dreaded, turned into something wonderful,” he said.
Conleth, who shares his experience on his blog 80in15, revealed that he hopes to continue his tradition.
“I’d love to continue but my dad joked that if I visit all the places I want to there won’t be any stones left.
“Tomas was the centre-piece of our family and it’s nice to visit the places I wish we could have seen together,” he said.
Conleth blogs about his experiences on www.80in15.co.uk