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Seamus Heaney’s Last Words: Provenance and Context for Noli Timere


Something of that intense interest carried over to the day of his funeral on 2 September, so that people were fully primed for the remarkable revelation made by Seamus’ son, Michael, at the
funeral mass in Donnybrook that morning. What Michael revealed was that, just minutes before his death, Seamus had texted his final words to his wife, Marie. The words were in Latin: ‘Noli timere’ (‘Do not be afraid”). This was, to begin with, a private message to his wife; and it may well be that it was a message of general reassurance, along the lines of ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be all right’. But
some two years after his father’s death, Michael (Mick) Heaney gave a lecture on Seamus’ last words which includes a fairly detailed indication of the mood among the Heaney family as the time approached for the major operation that Seamus was to undergo.