Tag Archives: Grief

The Handkerchief – Memories of Eva

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.

Embroidered hankies

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.

Shooting star – Image Wikimedia Commons

March 4 2021

Comments Off on The Handkerchief – Memories of Eva

Filed under Grief, Ireland

Eva

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.

She had the courage to stay until then.

Is it ever too late?

I need her courage.

7 Comments

Filed under Ireland

A new arrival in the family 1956

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.

Russian tanks roll into Budapest in November 1956 (Image https://hungarytoday.hu/)

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.

St Philomena who supervised our meals

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 at home in March 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.

She had the courage to stay until then.

Is it ever too late?

I need her courage.

2 Comments

Filed under Ireland