Working with the extract
It is a very well structured and crafted narrative which, despite the death of Sean, manages to be life-enhancing and positive and contain humour. The story opens very simply and effectively and the death is a fact before the reader has quite worked out who Sean is.
Descriptive touches like the blackbird's requiem and the toy soldier image powerfully create an atmosphere of reverence and solemnity.
The writer then takes time to tell the reader about Sean, starting with a potted biography summarising his unusual life. Sean's relationship with the writer and his wife is charted from second father to co-worker on the Farms for City Children (for which his way of life was the inspiration), to grandfather and closest friend.
Sean was a man who inspired respect, admiration and love. The anecdote about his foretelling of his death shows a sense of humour too. Including two of Sean's poems further enhances the reader's understanding of Sean.
The piece ends almost as it starts with a bird standing watch over the death.
This is an excellent example of autobiographical writing. Read and discuss how the writer achieves this.