Thoughts of my sister Eva, gone 64 days today, come flashing through my head from the most unexpected sources, some, like storm clouds, are gloomy and dark, some are as joyful as catching a glimpse of a shooting star.
Today, a Twitter account I follow, Fermanagh County Museum, referenced an article in The Guardian newspaper about the history of the hanky and that was the trigger that opened the pandora’s box of happy little memories…nothing dramatic, but quiet gentle little reminiscences that made the day more pleasant.
My sister Eva adored handkerchiefs and used them all her life. No paper tissues for her – she was a woman before her time with her ecofriendly hankies, lovingly laundered and meticulously ironed each Saturday, her housework day. I was just wondering if I asked my grandchildren aged 10, 11 and 12, what a hanky is, would they even know?
Handkerchiefs as they were known, before the diminutive ‘hanky’, were staple Christmas and birthday gifts. Aunts, visitors and even Santa considered them approriate and suitable gifts for people of all ages.
Our Aunt May, a nun, never overlooked a birthday or Christmas for any one of her nieces and nephews. Often her gifts would be a box of hankies- flat book sized boxes, smaller cigarette packet sized boxes. Some single offerings, some containing 2, 3 or even 6 . Some beautiful ones with prints of favourite cartoon figures for the small children, some colourfully emroidered, some emroidered white on white, some with lacework and very special linen ones with lace edgings for weddings.
Eva acquired her great love of hankies from our Mother – who had dozens of them, some for everyday, some for special occasions. When Mum died in 1999, Eva laid claim to the cache of hankies and she proudly packed them into her New Zealand bound luggage!
On December 10 last, Eva said she had ordered some new hankies from Marks and Spencers online and she hoped to have them in a few days as the delivery service from UK to Australia was really fast. I asked her if she needed more hankies and she said she wanted new ones for Christmas, her favourite time of year.
I suspect they were Christmas themed hankies like these, but I am not sure. I don’t know if she ever got to enjoy them as exactly a week later she slipped into a coma from which she never woke up.
The humble hanky was my shooting star today.
March 4 2021
Comments Off on The Handkerchief – Memories of Eva
Our sister Eva arrived into our world on November 15 1956, a day I remember so well. We were a family of 4 – boy aged 9, girl (me) aged 8, boy aged almost 4, boy aged 2. So Eva was number 5 in our family and for her recent 65th Birthday, I remembered that day with her. A new baby, they said. Oh, I groaned – another boy I suppose.
I was escorted to the ‘big room’ where babies mysteriously arrived, usually when the local midwife, Nurse Kelly, had left her bicycle leaning up against the wall. The ‘big room’ was in the annexe to our house and was a sort of ‘out of bounds’ area, so this was an adventure at a number of levels.
The usual question was asked – where did this baby come from? I was advised that it had come from Hungary in a tea chest to escape the Russian invasion. This was very plausible as there were images in the newspapers of tanks of the Red Army rolling in to Budapest just weeks before. It certainly made a dramatic change from the usual ‘gooseberry bush’ yarn.
Staring in at this sleeping bundle, I asked what we would call him. It’s a girl they said…’A what’? I responded and was quite stunned when they repeated the news.
I suppose we will have to spend days going through the Litany of Saints to find a name for her, I thought. remembering the trauma of trying to agree on a name for the last arrival, Damian, who had something to do with Lepers. Names of prior arrivals in our family were predetermined– Noel arrived on Christmas Day, so ‘Noel’ was a no-brainer, with our maternal grandfather’s name added ; I arrived on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, so Angela it was, tagged on to the names of both grandmothers; the eldest brother was named after his paternal grandfather and great grandfather, James and Daniel, but he was never called by either of these names other than on formal documents.
So what to do with this cute little bundle? Well, as it happened, her name had already been predetermined. No Litany of the Saints to scour this time . She would be ‘Eva’, a family name on our mother’s side of the house, a name that had been given to 4 generations before her (that we know of.) The name ‘Eva’ and variants of it, remain in our family among 1st, 2nd and third cousins. Our mother had a sister Eva, our grandfather had a sister Eva, our great-grandmother had a sister Eva and our great-great-grandmother had a sister Eva. Who knows how far back it goes?
So off to the chapel to have her christened – and I recall clutching the piece of paper with her chosen names. Our mother was still confined to bed, and in any event had not been ‘churched’, so she could not attend. (Churching was a catholic practice of ‘cleansing’ women who had given birth, that has thankfully ended). To satisfy the Church requirement for a Saint’s name for Baptism, our mother chose Philomena, a great favourite of hers as evidenced by the huge picture of her clutching a lily, that hung over the end of our dining room table.
However, the priest insisted in the nicest way possible that it might be a good idea to add in the name ‘Mary’ as there was some discussion beginning around the authenticity of Philomena’s status as a saint. It was a cold winter day in a church with no heating, so Dad readily agreed to the proposal so we could get home to a warm fire. I seem to recall that our mother was none too pleased by the decision.
To the best of my recollection, Johnny and Mary Josie Sweeney were godparents to our Eva Philomena Mary Gallagher.
In days before cameras were the norm, we do not have any photos of her as a baby. But here she is aged 2, in June 1959
Eva – In Memoriam
My sister is dead.
The vast emptiness astonishes me.
The lonely painful journey she made, angers me.
Her life unlived, dismays me.
She had dreams and hopes of change, which may have come in the silence of her final hours.
19 years after the 9/11 hijackings, another look at the site of the Shanksville Crash site in Pennsylvania. The eerie silence of the landscape, pierced only by a whistling strong breeze, has remained with me. I am very pleased to have this record of the crash site, now utterly changed by the massive memorial that is now there.
On September 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 departed Newark, New Jersey, one of the main New York airports, for San Francisco, California. It was 8:42 am. 37 passengers and 7 crew settled down for the almost 6-hour flight. About three-quarters of an hour later, at around half past nine, 4 hijackers entered the cockpit and took control of the plane.
Aware that something was wrong, passengers and crew phoned family and friends on the ground and were told that passenger planes had been flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre at 8.46 am and 9.03 am. A third plane was crashed into the Pentagon Building in Washington D.C. at 9.37 am. Realizing that their flight was in all probability being used for the same purpose, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 decided to take action.
At the turn of the 20th Century our great grandparents, Daniel and Isabella lived and raised their family of 10 on a small holding on the side of a hill overlooking the Gweebarra River, near Glenties, County Donegal.
There were a number of those children that we knew well, and others who were names that we only had heard as they cropped up in conversation from time to time.
One of these ‘names’ was ‘Aunt Kate’.
Catherine Gallagher was born on May 22nd 1884, the 6th child and 5th daughter of the family. All the children were born at home, usually with the assistance of a local midwife or a neighbour who had experience at births.
In the 1901 Census, taken in April of that year, Catherine is shown as ‘Cassie’, one of 8 offspring at home on that night. Interestingly, our great grandfather Daniel seems to have completed the census form, but left the column headed ‘Rank, Profession or Occupation’ blank. The Census Enumerator has entered ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ for each of the non school going girls, as can be seen by the different handwriting.
Cassie is shown as aged 15, but she was almost 17 and had finished school at that time. All the children had attended Kilkenny National School, about a 20 minute walk away. All members of the family were bilingoal, speaking both Irish and English.
In the 1911 Census here ‘Cassie’ is recorded as Kate and is now 27 years old and again denoted as ‘Farmer’s daughter” In reality, all of these girls were workers, expert knitters, seamstresses and embroiders and would have contributed to the family income as well as helping on the farm with feeding hens, collecting eggs, milking the few cows, saving hay, jam making and baking. I don’t know whether they worked from home or in a workplace.
There is mention of a Kate Gallagher from Mulnamina who was commended for sewing ‘an emroidered white petticoat’ in the Derry Journal newspaper of July 7 1913. Was that our Kate? While there were a few girls of similar name in the townland at the time, I think I am going to claim that it was her!
But we really know nothing of Kate, beyond that she spoke Irish and English, that she attended school and was the 6th born child in the family. Did she have a boyfriend? Did she go dancing? That she would have had many friends in the area is beyond doubt – cousins and neighbours frequented one anothers’ homes. Some of her sisters had married at this stage and perhaps she visited them in their new homes.
The next evidence we have for Kate is her death certificate in 1926.
We learn from the death certificate that Kate had Tubercolis, the great killer of the time and for decades afterwards, and that she had been suffering from heart failure for 3 years. It’s unlikely that she would have been well enough to leave the house for some time before her death if she was frail. The death was registered by our Grandfather James who was present at death. It was probably known that Kate was grievously ill and he travelled from Carrigart to Glenties to be with the family.
Kate’s mother Isabella had died in November 1925, just 9 months before Kate. As far as I know, Aunt Maggie the youngest of the family, had to forgo her job in Glenties when she was needed at home to look after her elderly father, ill sister and eldest brother John.
There were crowds of hazel bushes near the house and I like to think that she and her siblings had fun collecting them each Autumn, as we did decades later.
The great family mystery is: Where is Kate buried? Where are her parents buried? What graveyard are they in? It is terribly sad that there is no trace of her, no trace of them, as though they never existed.
The house is off the beaten track. Kate would have walked this laneway many times during her lifetime, to and from school and to and from homes of relatives.
It is also the lane taken on her last journey, just months after her mother went the same road. The great family mystery is: Where is Kate buried? Where are her parents buried? What graveyard are they in? It is terribly sad that there is no trace of her, no trace of them, as though they never existed.
Yesterday I found a rose named ‘Catherine’. It is deep crimson and is described as elegant, slender, beautifully perfumed and a good cut flower.
Catherine – a rose for Grandaunt Kate Gallagher …who we never knew.
After months of so called ‘cocooning’ as we sheltered from Covid-19, it was with some trepidation that we headed north west to my home county of Donegal for a holiday. Our chosen location had been determined by a road marathon that had been cancelled due to the pandemic, but we decided to go anyhow. And what a great decision it was!
We were located in the south-west of Donegal, about 15 km from the town of Ardara, along a maze of narrow roads, with only sheep and babbling brooks breaking the silence. Our house was spacious and very comfortable,with all mod cons,apart from internet or a telephone signal. A huge basket of turf was provided for the fire, to add to the coziness and to the sensual experience of being in Donegal, where delicious turfsmoke permeates the air.
So this was going to be a time for enjoying nature and wilderness, a time for walks and fresh air and wide open spaces.The vastness of the empty landscape was sheer paradise. apartment.
Just a short distance in either directon was the fabulous Donegal coastline and the Wild Atlantic Way with a choice of secluded little coves for sitting, or vast exapnses of relatively unoccupied beach for vigorous walks.
This particular region is well known for its spectacular historical features.
The Pilgrimage route or ‘Turas’ at Glencolumkille comprises engraved standing stones, tombs, wells and ruins of an ancient church and would take several hours to complete.
Not quite as ancient, but even more poignant for me are the many remains of old buildings in the area, where families once lived and once toiled.
There is an abundance of beautiful native flowers thriving in grasslands.
And not only delicate blossoms….. Fuschia hedges abound
Donegal is also known for its lovely hydrangeas, widely planted outside houses.
A socially distanced trip to the fishing village of Killybegs, for roadside Fish and Chips beside the busy harbour was a ‘must do’. The fresh-from-the-sea flavour is a dream!
The most dramatic feature in the area has to be the waterfall outside Ardara. It was in full flow after a night of rain when we visited.
This was my first extended trip to this part of Donegal. There is so much to see, so much to do – and this is just a sample of what is on offer.
Remembering members of our family is part of my ‘mission’ in life as the self appointed curator of the family history. So many close relatives have lived, loved, been loved and died, and are never ever remembered again. I like to try to find out about them, even if I never knew them, and keep them relevant by remembering them on anniversaries of birth, marriage or death.
There is one I did know and one whose death is never far from my mind. The 30th of June is here again and once more I am torn between updating a blog post about the death of our baby brother aged 15 months in 1959, or simply leaving it alone.
Last year, 2019, marked the 60th anniversary of his death and I tried but just could not make it to the end of a post to mark his anniversary. However, a couple of recent events have prompted me to update my post.
Canice, sitting on my lap, was having a bad day when this photograph was taken as he was teething and was out of sorts. He wasn’t much interested in sitting still anyhow and he was unhappy throughout the session.
Just a matter of days later he died. He had crawled under the wheel of a mail van, parked just outside our house, and was fatally injured when it moved off. In recent times I have found some newspaper reports of his death.
This was the death notice published on Wednesday July 1. He died on a Tuesday afternoon and the funeral was on Wednesday, straight to the graveyard. There was no funeral liturgy for children at this time.
An inquest was held in the local hotel in July. I recall my father being deeply distressed following the inquest. He requested that the inquest be reconvened to put on the record that absolutely no blame whatsoever attached to George Fisher, the driver of the mail van. George was in our house twice every single day and he was such a kind gentle man. There was no way he could have spotted Canice under the van. and Dad did not want any cloud hanging over him.
The Acknowledgement was carried in the Irish Press in August 1959
Our mother kept Canice’s baby shoes and his beloved blue duck. I acquired them after she died in 1999. (The leather shoes need some conservation work after 61 years)
Some years ago while on holiday in Donegal and visiting Paddy Vaughan’s house I was shown two items that the late Mary Vaughan had kept and treasured. She had washed and bandaged and laid Canice into a coffin and had kept his Nappy Pin. It was at this time that I first saw the death notice that had appeared in the papers too.
Some weeks back I received a package in the post containing the pin and the death notice that Kevin Vaughan had looked after while his parents were alive.
It had actually never occured to me before that it must have been a very traumatic experience to have to lay out a badly injured small child. I believe Mrs Duffy helped with the sad task.
And reading the newspaper reports Joy Speer must also have been traumatized by what she saw – it was her screams that led my mother out to see what had happened. The local sergeant had chided my mother for lifting the body – apparently she should have left it where it lay to allow for a proper investigation. At this time there was no such thing as psychological support to people had to deal with their traumas as best they could.
Sophie McGroddy came to our aid that day and supported my mother and all of us. Breege Cullen who worked in the Hotel looked after me that evening and night. Both were brilliant.
The pandemic lockdown led me down a number of ‘rabbit holes’ sorting old photographs and letters. Among the boxes were a number of old postcards of the parish of Mevagh where I grew up. Postcards were essentially the ‘text messages’ of their time and it was almost mandatory to post one to friends, neighbours and relatives from your holiday resort. Bounded on the east by Mulroy Bay, on the west by Sheephaven Bay and by the Atlantic to the north, the parish of Mevagh, on the Rosguill Peninsula, is a very popular holiday destination and dozens of postcards would be bought, written and sent from here every summer.
There were three villages in the parish – Glen, Downings and Carrigart. My old postcards are mostly of my own village of Carrigart
This is a selection, with some personal memories associated with them. It is interesting to see how the things have changed the years! Most notable of course is the absence of cars.
The postcard on the left shows the street devoid of vehicles and just above the North Star Hotel on the right is what we knew as ‘The Planting’. This was a small wood that was a magical place for children to play. We swung out of trees like Tarzans and and Janes; the bigger boys would dig holes and conceal them with branches and vegetation so that anyone treading on them would fall in; here we played ‘hide and go seek’ and Cowboys and Indians. It was a marvelous adventure playground and amenity in the village.
It looks like these photos may have been taken on two different days, but from almost exactly the same spot at the ‘bottom’ of the street, outside of what would become the North Star Ballroom. Of interest is the figure sitting on the summer seat at Andy Speer’s house – I wonder who that was? The Lucan Ice Cream sign was at Diver’s shop who sold wafers and ice cream sodas made with ice cream and soda in a tall glass. This lovely little shop also had a library where we could borrow books. Julia Diver was very generous with the size of the ice cream wafers. At this time the only other shop that sold ice cream was Walsh’s at the top of the street and they had a metal device that marked the HB block of ice cream into threepenny portions. Pure misery for children. (Especially if it was my Dad who was dispensing it in Walsh’s, they were particularly mean- or so we thought!)
The postcard on the right records a ‘tour or excursion bus’ being in town. Usually these arrived in July and August when the ‘marching season’ in the north of Ireland was at its height and catholics would go on excursions to avoid the often sectarian marches in Derry. The tourists took tea and refreshments at the North Star before moving on. Often more than one would arrive at the same time. The only time I ever recall our front door being closed was when the tour buses were in town. We had a number of strange incidents where total strangers felt entitled to walk straight onto our house just because the door was open!
This next postcard features a photograph taken outside from what was then McElwees shop, McElwees sold newspapers. Patrick and sister Annie operated the shop. In later years, a sister Maggie Ellen came to help out in the shop when Annie was in poor health. I remember this shop especially for the tins of biscuits with glass lids, that could be lifted up to select your biscuits and put them in a paper bag. They also sold bars of French Nougat (or nugget as we called it).
Next door was Kiely’s, another shop. I recall it as a dark place with a distinctive smell. Madge never seemed to be in the best of humour, but it was worth risking her bad form to get a Peggy’s Leg.
The car (an Austin A 40?) is parked opposite McGettigan’s. They sold spirits and when I was growing up the shop was run by sisters Birdie and Mary Rose McGettigan. This shop had a beautiful old wooden counter. They also sold ‘conversation lozenges’ – a type of hard sweet with messages written on them. I don’t recall any of the messages, but they were good value and a bag would last ages as they were so hard!
Next door, with the shop sign just visible, was Martha Speer’s. This shop was heaven as it was here that we bought our comics – Dandy, Beano, Beezer,Topper, Tiny Tots, Victor – and magazines every Wednesday. It was this shop too that first sold potato crisps in the village – the plain ones with sachets of salt in a little blue bag. We used to go there to buy them and if she had none, Martha Speer would tell us that there was a shortage of the right kind of potatoes, or even that the potato crop failed.
One of the McClafferty’s is sitting on the window at their butcher shop with a bike parked alongside. Joe McClafferty had a butcher shop her with a big wooden chopping block. We spent much time in McClaffertys as my brother was friends with Cathal. Their kitchen was always warm and Sarah was very welcoming. She had a washing board and I remember when she got a modern glass one that would rip your knuckles as well as cleaning the linen! When I think of her I think of her washing board and Sunlight soap.
McCoach’s lovely ivy covered house is beyond that surrounded by the hedge and with some trees growing in the front garden.
In the distance is a building with a corrigated roof – this was the Chemist shop. Paddy Doherty was the chemist when I was very young and he spent a lot of time in our house. When he moved on, Miss Greene was the pharmacist. This was the place where babies were weighed on the scales with a big straw basket. She invariably offered children a Glucose twist out of a big jar on the counter.
There are delivery vehicles at the North Star Hotel and the lovely ‘Planting’ dominates the street.
This is a very strange postcard indeed! Who would want to send a postcard like this from your holidays! The woman sweeping the street beside the picket fencing is Mary Josie Griffin Sweeney. Griffins shop sold all sorts of drapery, including Donegal Handwoven Tweed. They had a beautiful display of Beleek fine bone china is the window too. This distinctive and almost translucent china came in very interesting shapes.
The interesting features of this postcard is the man with the shovel mixing something and the man crossing the street with a plank. There seems to be a pile of sand deposited near the railing of the Celtic Cross Leitrim memorial too. I wonder what was being constructed ? The Ford Prefect is parked outside Walsh’s Bar which was adjacent to the shop.
On the bottom right of the card, alongside the picket fence, is Griffin’s display of beautiful Donegal Tweeds. Griffins Drapery and Speers Drapery next door, displayed their tweeds outside at the front of their shops in the tourist season. Both shops also had upstairs showrooms. I think I see a display of postcards on sale at Griffins too. This was taken on a busy day in town!
In the centre of the postcard is the Carrigart Hotel. An iconic building in the village dating from about c 190, it had distinctive semi circular steps at the front door and . It was attached to a bar and grocery shop. This was an Esso petrol pump – the only one in town. This lovely original building is listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage here.
Carrigart had its own professional photographer in John McClafferty. John sadly died at a young age in 1981. John produced several postcards of the village.
The postcard on the left, probabaly shot on another day of tour buses, shows a busy street. McCoach’s ivy clad house with trees as seen above, has been replaced by Boyce’s Supermarket, Martha Speer’s shop is selling ice cream as well as comics and other groceries. The postcard on the right is probably the first attempt at showing off some of the lovely architecture of teh parish. The Carrigart and Rosapenna Hotels, a fine view of the beautiful Holy Trinity Church and a streetscape that shows the design of the estate village with uniform roof lines. Two more petrol pumps have arrived in town outside Griffins, together with some street lighting.
This set of old sepia postcards were produced by The Irish Tourist Association Photo – Copyright. Printed in Eire, they have ‘Ref./A and Ref , B on the reverse.
They feature scenes of Mulroy Bay, an important and beautiful feature of the parish of Mevagh.The image to the left is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the bay, on the top right is the causeway into the Leitrim Estate at Mulroy and the bottom right photo seems to be taken from a house near Bunlin. All these views are within a few miles of the village.
The scenes on the right are as in the previous images. The top left view is of the Needle’s Eye – a rock formation near the shore of Downings Bay. Interestingly this does not seem to feature on modern cards at all. It was a popular spot for us years ago. The bottom left seems to be a view of Mulroy Bay from Cratlagh Woods and the centre piece seems to be a view from the Cranford area.
This is rather lovely after all the black and white offerings! Mulroy Bay is an absolute treasure -a sheltered waterway with many lovely wooded islands. Sadly the fabulous views of Mulroy Bay from the Mevagh side have become obscured by vegetation in recent decades. I think this may be a view from near Cranford.
The legend on the back of this postcard is an advertisement in itself! It reads: ‘Mulroy Bay is one of the most beautiful of all the bays around the Irish coast. Along its shores tiny peninsulas run into the sea- some richly clad with fir and pine and gorse- protecting the snug little coves between. From the high ground magnificent views are obtained of the bay, with its numerous wooded islands and much-indented shores. The beauty and charm of County Donegal will cast its spell over you and draw you irresistibly.’ And of course, lots of Foxgloves in summer!
The remainder of my collection are local views.
I like this one as it has the stooks of corn in the fields. Nothing much would have changed here except for the method of farming.
I like the stacks of turf here – I wonder if the turf was cut here or merely stacked here ?
I wonder is this from a painting or is it a photograph that has been coloured? The things to note here are that the road is not tarred and the Youth Hostel is not shown. So this may possibly be from the end of the 19th Century
My final two postcards are of the Boatyard on Fanny’s Bay which is in turn on Mulroy Bay. The boat building yard was established in 1910 by the Congested Districts Board. This area had a thriving herring fishing industry and Downings remains a significant landing port to this day.
As the COVID-19 statstics in Ireland continue to decline, rules for ‘cocooners’ are being eased on a phased basis and the horrid term ‘cocooning’ is falling out of use.
After 100 days we take tiny little steps back to a new normal. A ‘normal’ that is as yet unknown and possibly fraught with danger. As the ‘lockdown’ is phased out I will end this series of posts with some reflections on the rough road travelled.
The biggest tragedy is the loss of the 1,715 men women and young adults in the Republic of Ireland who did not make it through this awful time. They range in age from 17 to 103. The loss of each one is a tragedy and a huge void in the lives of those who knew and loved them. I knew and loved a number of them. Across the water in the UK, so connected to us through our diaspora, the statistics are overwhelming – to date, 42,461 people have died – an incredible number. This includes 545 people who have died in Northern Ireland. These are awful numbers to try to deal with.
The artist Juan Lucena painted this beautifully poignant image in remembrance of those who had to leave without saying goodbye.
The plight of our elderly in residential care was shocking. Over 50% of our deaths happened within these ‘safe havens’. This was an immense failure of our state – and not only ours- the scandal was repeated in other jurisdictions with some rhetoric containing the chilling phrase- ‘they were going to die anyway’. Dying alone without the presence of family members and without the comforting support of funeral rituals has been a huge trauma of these times, particularly here in Ireland where such rites of passage are a very important part of our lives. I will never forget the image of a lady watching the funeral of her husband of 60 years on an iphone.
One of the rawest of moments of these 100 days came from Dorothy Duffy who wrote a poem honoring her sister Rose who had died alone in a nursing home as a result of COVID 19. Rose and Dorothy are of Irish descent, living in England.
Listen, if you can, to Dorothy’s heartfelt words. This is the transcript of her poem.
My sister is not a statistic
Tomorrow, when the latest Deathometer of Covid is announced in sonorous tones, Whilst all the bodies still mount and curl towards the middle of the curve Heaped one atop and alongside the other My sister will be among those numbers, among the throwaway lines Among the platitudes and lowered eyes, an older person with underlying health conditions, A pitiful way to lay rest the bare bones of a life.
My sister is not a statistic
Her underlying conditions were Love Kindness Belief in the essential goodness of mankind Uproarious laughter Forgiveness Compassion A storyteller A survivor A comforter A force of nature And so much more
My sister is not a statistic
She died without the soft touch of a loved one’s hand Without the feathered kiss upon her forehead Without the muted murmur of familiar family voices gathered around her bed, Without the gentle roar of laughter that comes with memories recalled Evoked from a time that already seems distant, when we were connected by the simplicity of touch, of voice, of presence.
My sister is not a statistic
She was a woman who spanned the seven ages. A mother A grandmother A great grandmother A sister A Friend An aunt A carer A giver
My sister is not a statistic
And so, she joins the mounting thousands
They are not statistics on the Deathometer of Covid
They are the wives, mothers, children, fathers, sisters, brothers, The layers of all our loved ones If she could, believe me when I say, she would hold every last one of your loved ones, croon to and comfort them and say – you were loved. Whilst we who have been left behind mourn deep, keening the loss, the injustice, the rage. One day we will smile and laugh again, we will remember with joy that, once, we shared a life, we knew joy and survived sadness.
You are my sister…….. and I love you.
Copyright Dorothy Duffy 2020
‘Sister’ can be replaced by Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, Neighbour, Friend. Each one a terrible loss to the world.
The shock of the surge of deaths and infection was numbing. But there was light. The heartscalding narrative of those 100 days was wrapped in the warmth of the people, thousands of them, who made life possible and bearable in these awful times.
From refuse collectors to bus drivers, from shop assistants to food producers, from laboratory staff to cleaners, they all put their own lives on the line to keep us safe. Many of them too, among the lowest paid in our society, yet our lives depended on them. Members of our police force, An Garda Siochana, and our postal delivery workers made themselves available to check on vulnerable people, deliver groceries, get prescriptions and generally keep ‘an eye’ that everyone was OK, in particular those living in remote locations.
As we begin anew, we are facing into the unknown. We are not fully aware of the full impact of the pandemic lockdown, What will the fallout be? What emotional price has been paid by people of all ages, from small children to workers, to our most elderly?
For now we focus on the upsides. Friends and relatives who had drifted away in other directions over the years made contact with surprise phone calls, lovely cards, emails, gifts of books, videos of bluebell woods, regular WhatsApp messages. The weekly Zoom meetings with my Toastmasters Club were a real life saver for me too.
And the biggest winner of all seems to be nature – unhindered by pollution from vehicles and aircraft, birds have been singing loudly all day long, skies are bluer, bees are busier, flowers are blooming better than ever, and best of all, more people have time to enjoy the show!
We may now travel within our county, businesses are opening up again. Those of us who are particularly vulnerable, and are not yet ready to test out the ventilator equipment in our hospital intensive care units, will proceed with caution, holding fast to the two-metre distancing, hand washing and face coverings and keeping a close eye on the infection rates.