It came as a huge shock when my Mum passed away after a mercifully quick and painless illness on 25 May 2011.....just a few weeks before we were due to go and visit. I wasn't able to go to her funeral but instead I wrote the following and my brother very kindly read it out for me in the church.
Mum never fitted into any label, she was so full of contradictions – she was a typical traditional Irish Catholic mother…. except that she had no qualms about challenging the status quo within the hierarchy of the church, asking a priest once what did he know about marriage problems when he had never been married. She was always at home when we came in from school, always had a cooked meal and the house was always clean and our clothes washed and ironed… and yet she was often not there emotionally, but off in a world of her own where the Holy Spirit reigned supreme.
She loved reading, mostly religious articles, but also she had an interest in the world beyond
. She would often write down, on the backs of
used envelopes, quotes she had read or heard on the radio, and while some
captured her imagination with their spiritually uplifting views on life, others
fascinated her for the beautiful way that the words were put together. This for the woman who, at 14, begged her
mother not to send her to the new girl’s secondary school because she didn’t
think she would be good enough for it.
She had a wonderful grasp of the English language and often used it to
good effect in her talking…. And oh how she loved talking! She was extremely reluctant to get the phone
in, but once it was installed you couldn’t get away from her, so much so that
Dad always talked first because he knew he wouldn’t get a word in edge ways if
he left it. But she would so often spend
so much of the time on the phone feeling guilty for…. talking so much! Which was strange considering how reclusive
she could be, at one stage not having stepped outside the house for 15 years. Ireland
She always said that she would never die in a boating or airplane accident because she never wanted to travel. Instead the world came to her. All through my childhood we had people from all corners of the earth and different religions come through our home through connections with my aunt first, and then in more recent years through my brothers and sisters. And all were served piping hot cups of tea in her matching set of china cups and saucers, along with a plate of freshly baked scones and buns.
She loved us all in her own way and worried about us all the time, in equal measures. Whenever I rang her she would say “You won’t believe it, but I was just thinking about you”. Which was nice to be told, except I knew that there was a one in five chance she was thinking about any one of us. Whenever I had to leave to return back to
England or after a trip home, I would
ring her when I arrived only to find her exhausted and miserable because she
had, in her head, traveled every step of the way with us, and inevitably always
had a much worse journey than we did. She loved all of her grandchildren
equally as had my Dad, and always had time for them, and was interested in what
they were doing, even if she didn’t always understand it. Algeria
Her happiest moments were sitting in the armchair in the corner watching us all laugh and joke together and getting on – she hated any arguments that lead to a falling out between us, and was always so happy when people made up. She had a wonderful sense of humour and it was always great to see her laughing, like the time she tried to blow out the candles on her birthday cake only for them to relight over and over again. She laughed so much that her teeth fell out, and laughed again so much on the phone while relaying it all back to me.
When her hearing deteriorated in her later years, she told me once on the phone that she had borrowed her sister Peggy’s hearing aid and exclaimed ‘it was so weird to hear the sound of my own voice again’ to which I told her now she could hear what we had to listen to.
One of my fondest childhood memories is that of my mum and her two sisters, Peggy and Nancy sitting around after dinner, when everyone had left the table, and they would drink endless cups of tea and discuss every thing under the sun, from the neighbours, the new improvements to Adare, her hometown, politics and the latest government’s blunders, the previous week’s ‘Late Late Show’ to world affairs and cooking or gardening tips. They never finished until the whole world was put to rights. I never realized until much later in life that, children come and go along with their spouses and their children, but siblings are always there for you.
A few months ago I was looking up her number on my mobile to ring her and stared at the number to figure out why it looked wrong – I had looked up ‘home’ instead of ‘Mum’. When one of my daughters asked me why I still called it home, especially as it wasn’t the home I had grown up in, now that Mum lived on Dad’s vegetable patch… in a beautiful house I hasten to add, I had to think for a minute. Then I told her that wherever Mum was, was home to me, and always would be.
My eldest daughter, Sarah, (carrying on Mum’s name) once exclaimed, ‘Oh My God, Granny!’ I looked at her in puzzlement and asked ‘where?’ to which she replied, ‘YOU’. I had that same look of concentration that she had, with the tip of her tongue out to the side. At other times I know that I purse my lips in the same way as she did, and often, when feeling overwhelmed I have been known to stand in the middle of the kitchen floor with my head in my hands…. Just the same way she did. I told her once that it was scary how much I was turning into her. To which she replied ‘you should be honoured’. And I am.
When Vincent was small he used to kiss her every night and tell her ‘you’re the best mother I’ve ever had’ to which she would always answer, ‘and how many mothers have you had then?’ We only had the one, but she was ….the best one….. we’ve ever had.