As I mentioned before, last year there were 33 Guest Bloggers for the Month of LOVE series. When I invited folks to share love stories again this year, I hoped some who shared last year might come back for a return visit. And so I was delighted when my dear friend Nicola from Simply Homemade Blog messaged to say she had a story she wanted us all to hear. I read it and boy was I in a flood of tears. It is beautiful and it is an honor to publish it on Yankee Doodle Paddy.
When Karen said she was doing her Love Series again this year I didn’t need to think twice about my contribution. I knew exactly what, or more to the point, who I would write about.
When it came to putting the words down, it wasn’t as easy as I expected because 17 years following her death, it is still hard.
When I say my Mam is no longer with us people who didn’t know her tend to assume she was older, ill perhaps, that her death was an awful lot more natural than the reality.
It was a sunny Wednesday in July. She was in great humour, she had errands to run, she’d get them out of the way and spend the evening with her younger children. That didn’t happen though, she had errands to run and never made it home. Instead, her family spent the evening by her bed as she lay on life support with minimal chance of survival. A car crash. On Friday, the 20th July, two days later, at 12.36pm, a time that is etched on my brain, my Mam’s life support was turned off & time of death was called. She was 43.
It was cruel. My Mother lived life, she loved life. She had a wide network of friends, she got involved in the community alongside them. She had the kindest heart but wasn’t showy about it. As we say here in Ireland, she didn’t always ‘let on’ the things she did, like baking bread for her elderly neighbour because he lived alone and his bread recipe didn’t sound all that appetising!
She loved to sing. She always had the radio on, she was terribly fond of Marty Whelan. Karen will relate to that. If it wasn’t the radio, it was her records. She had a record player in the sitting room and as she went about the housework, she’d have it turned up loud so she could sing along as she worked. She sang in the church choir at Christmas, that she really loved. She’d visit nursing homes with the choir during the Festive season to sing and chat to the residents. This always tugged at her heart strings. She’d come home and tell us in a light-hearted manner that we weren’t ever to ‘abandon her in a home’.
She loved to dance too, again, I believe it was more the social aspect of that too. For as much as she enjoyed the dancing, she enjoyed the people, the friends she made, even more.
Another Irish saying is, ‘s/he didn’t lick it from a stone’ I am so used to hearing. Similar to “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” For me, it refers to my baking skills. My mother is responsible for not only my ability, but also, my love of baking. I don’t recall her ever having many, or any, baking disasters. She’d read a recipe, bake the cake and it would be delicious. The cupcakes I bake today are the ‘buns’ she made and I growing up. Her bread was amazing and I have never baked a loaf just like hers. Her Christmas cakes, apple pies, tea brack……I could go on, but I fear I’d end up in a puddle of tears as I reminisce about the Saturday baking I did alongside my Mother. It wasn’t only Saturdays of course, in her kitchen the kettle was always on, a home baked treat always on the tin and a tart or cake always in the oven of the Rayburn cooker. That was her way.
I could talk about her endless hobbies all day, her fabulous knitting, her beautiful garden with her successful veggie patch, her houseplants that would almost talk to you they were so lush and green, they flowered when they were supposed to, a trick I have yet to master.
There was something she loved more than all of those things though, that was us, her family. Family held her heart. My baby girl was a shining light in her life for that one year she knew her. Her own little boy, my brother, only 7 when she died, he was her shadow. It was rare she’d be seen without him and only that he wanted to stay with my sister who’d returned from Irish College the day before, he’d have been with her that fateful day. My sister, my other brother, me, her children, being a Mother to the four of us, that was what she loved more than anything in this world. She’d have given her life for any one of us, instead her life was taken from her in the cruelest manner.
To the rest of the country she became a statistic, one of 32 people to die on our roads in July 2001, one of 408 for that year. To us though, she was Mam, the one who who guided us, the one who nurtured us, the one who loved us.
Nicola, I am so sorry for this unexplainable tragedy and I can relate in many ways. Losing my dad when he was 46 and I was only 20 was so hard. But I’ve always believed our loved ones who have gone before us become our angels on earth. Though I never met your Mam, I feel like I have as all the love, care and kindness you have is hers too. I am sure she is proud of the amazing woman you are and she is still guiding you on your way. Thank you for coming back to Yankee Doodle Paddy this year. Your story for your Mam shows that love knows no bounds! It is just as strong when a person is with us physically or only in spirit. And how LOVE is indeed eternal!
Eternal Maternal LOVE,