My mother, Kathleen (Kitty) O’Shea died on this day in 1997, just ten years ago.Of course that Friday is forever etched in my memory. I was working on the day and had been out most of the morning on a social outing with one of the men,when I returned to Bawnmore I was given the message to ring home urgently.Bridie told me over the phone that mother was very sick. I drove home at break neck speed to find mam stretched out on the living room floor. By this time a doctor had arrived and was trying to revive her but to no avail.She had taken a heart attack. It was a surreal moment when one feels that the awful reality unfolding is part of a play or a film, I felt numbed and detached. The reality of what happened only hit me as I sat beside mothers lifeless body on the ambulance run to the Regional hospital.
Looking back, mam's sudden departure was for her a merciful release. At 76 my mother had serious problems with her eyes, being virtually blind at the end ,through the ravages of macular degeneration and glaucoma. She spent many dark days trying to cope with this worsening condition,as she noted in her brief diary entries for 1994...
Feb 19 - Eyes very sore…Feb 24 - Eyes very sore still…Feb 26 - No improvement,eyes still sore…Feb 27 - Eyes very sore,I am very depressed.
Throughout her life she had learned to cope with many debilitating ailments,and always came out smiling, her wonderful sunny disposition intact. I remember as a child listening to her coughing through the night and gasping for breath in an ashtmatic attack. She had several surgeries for suspicious lumps and also suffered with arthritis but it was the gradual deterioration of her sight that finally got her down.
Mam was widowed in her 30’s and left with two small children,Tony aged 10 and me ,the baby only a few months old. She had to cope with the heartbreak of losing Patrick her soul mate, and the task of providing for two children at a time when money was hard to come by in pre Celtic- tiger Ireland. She shed her tears and then stoically got on with the business of living,taking work wherever it was available to keep the food on the table. My mother cleaned other peoples houses,cleaned offices and looked after other peoples children often racing from one job to another,all the time keeping the home fires burning for her young family.She moved at the speed of light in a frantic bid to keep it all together,and mostly she succeeded.Donnovans, Kennedys, Roches, Cuddihys and others all felt the expert touch of her hand in cooking,polishing,child-minding and all aspects of housekeeping.
Despite this hectic schedule mam always found time for her own domestic responsibilities as this entry indicates…
Feb 15 - Made some pancake mix,did not cook them - nobody interested. However by the following day we had succumbed…
Feb 16 - Ash Wednesday - Ate the pancakes today,may God forgive us !
Mother loved her garden and in later years spent a lot of time out there either working or lounging in the sun. Everything she touched seemed to blossom having the proverbial green finger. We have some lovely photos of her in the front porch surrounded by her beloved plants. Like the rest of us her enthusiasm sometimes faltered between the garden centre and the flower bed…
Bought flowers at nursery,wish they were planted now! - Jan 16,1993
The other love of her life was animals and in particular dogs and in particular the dogs who were her companions right up to the end of her life,both called Judy. She was never happier than when with her ‘pet’ Judy,and daren't anyone say a cross word to her in mothers hearing! There's a photo of mam in her seventies lying on the hearth rug playing with Judy,and scores of other pictures with her and various other pets over the years going back to when she was a young girl in Ballycannon with her lovely black’pom’ Darkie…Her excursion with Judy was the highlight of her day,as she notes in 1994...
In another place she marks Judys arrival,1985...
Puppy arrived,Judy - 8 lbs. Weight
Of course the great loss of mothers life was the premature departure of Patrick,and while she seldom talked about him to us , I believe he was an ever-present memory,perhaps too painful to articulate. In her diary his anniversary is noted thus for 1994...
In a poignant entry for 1994 she muses…
Feb 14 - St. Valentines Day. Means nothing to me. I will say a little prayer to him to-night.
Amongst mams diaries I found this poem carefully transcribed in her beautiful handwriting,obviously a piece that she felt described her own feelings about Patricks death. Below the poem she wrote - Dedicated to a dear one. On this the tenth anniversary of mothers own passing I would like to make this verse my own and dedicate it to my departed parents both dear to me and Tony…
He has put on invisibility.
Dear Lord, I cannot see---
But this I know, although the road ascends
And passes from my sight,
That there will be no night;
That you have taken him by the hand
And led him on along the road of life that never ends,
And he will find it is not death but dawn.
I do not doubt that you are there as here,
And You will hold him dear.
Our life did not begin with birth,
It is not of the earth;
And this that we call death,
It is no more than the opening and closing of a door –
And in Your house how many rooms must be
Beyond the one where we rest momently.
Dear Lord, I thank you for the faith that frees,
The love that knows it cannot lose its own;
The love that, looking through the shadows, sees
That You and he and I are ever one!
James Dillet Freeman