My Granny Mary Mc Callion, my beloved ‘Granny Mc’ passed away on Friday 15th September at 4.am. She was 87. We weren’t ready.
It remains surreal, over a week later, and we passed through the wake and the funeral as if in a dream. Thankfully, miraculously, great peace was felt by all after the beautiful funeral ceremony.
My Daddy, brave but devastated, asked me to write something for the newspaper. He wanted people to know about my Granny, and also for them to know how beautiful the funeral was.
It appeared in the Derry Journal one week later. (Thank you) I wrote something like this:
Wee Mary, our Granny Mc.
By Fiona McCallion
‘A wee woman, but a big light.’ How Fr Joe Gormley described Mary McCallion, who died on Friday morning. She knew it, in the end it seems, but she still sent her family home with reassurances, from Altnagelvin hospital, where they had been at her side since she was admitted on Wednesday.
The visiting priest who was visiting on Thursday night, to bring her Communion was a friend too. He was rushed away early by doctors before he could do a little job Mary had asked him to do: write a love note to her husband of 57 years, Jim.
There was shock and numbness when the call came in the night and the rush to the hospital for her five children. She was 87 years old, and up to a few weeks ago full of life and joy. She was full of love until the end.
The wake took place in High Park, where Mary’s devoted daughter, also Mary, lives. It was the house she raised her five children (she lost one more as a tiny baby) through the Troubles, the street full of loving neighbours and friends, a place brimming with memories.
The rain poured but the people streamed through the door, tears and laughter, lives touched by goodness. Pain shared, support lent, stories traded.
The former Tillie and Henderson ‘factory girl’ had friends far and wide.
‘She was a wee saint.’ People spoke of the way Mary talked to them, holding their hand, deeply interested, placing value on them and making them feel special. She made everyone feel like they were no. 1 in that moment. ( I always thought it was just me!)
Generous and always providing, her son Jim observed, ‘She’d give you her last and make you feel like you were doing her a favour taking it.’
Mary’s other son Joe called her ‘a daughter of compassion.’ She never turned anyone away.
The day of the funeral on Sunday dawned glorious, bright and warm. A big change from the wintry, dark days before. Butterflies were seen during the familiar walk from High Park to St. Mary’s Church, Creggan. Sons, grandsons, her brother and friends carried Mary to her beloved Creggan chapel. There was a poignant pause outside Mary and Jim’s home of 68 Iniscairn Road, where many people stood at their doors.
‘Faith, family and fun.’ Fr. Joe Gormley, a relatively new friend of Mary’s, spoke of her beautifully, her love, dedication to living the Gospel and her lifelong preparation for this day. He said she is a great loss to the community of Creggan.
Tears flowed in the packed congregation. But peace was felt and love pervaded the church.
Mary’s husband Jim, never seen without her at daily Mass, was solitary but strong and composed as he sat beside his wife for the final time.
Many lessons of giving and selflessness were learned and will be learned.
23 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren to celebrate her life and pass on her messages.
The graveside was peaceful, beautiful even, flowers and family under the shining September sun. A new plot beside the Lecky Road, Mary’s first home. Jim sat in a chair as the final prayers were said. The family held hands in composure and love.
Her death is still surreal for those that loved her. She will leave a huge gap in this life, and many hearts are heavy and a little broken.
Her family feel blessed that she reached the age of 87. Her example of love will live on through them and the hundreds of hearts she touched in her humble, giving way.
My Granny Mc is survived by her husband Jim, her daughters Catriona, Ann and Mary and her sons Jim and Joe. 26 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I have an image emblazoned in my mind of my brothers Jimmy (27) and Jacob (7) hand in hand in the dying sun, carrying a wreath of flowers towards my Granny’s final resting place just before Jimmy helped carry her coffin there. Jimmy in his shirt and tie and Jacob in a full suit bought for a wedding. Jimmy bent to speak to Jacob. When they came back they told us that they carried the wreath from my mother’s brothers and sisters, quite by coincidence.
One of many beautiful moments from a day that I thought would be close to unbearable.
Also, can I just say that I thought it was heart-warming that my Mum’s whole family were there to support my Dad. Especially after losing their own Mum, our darling Granny Breslin just 7 months and 1 day before. People are so kind, in general actually. And people’s presence and care and warm words mean the world, and I’m so glad for my Daddy that people have been so kind.
My Mammy’s big brother Eddie wrote to me yesterday, ‘ Mary didn’t do miracles for all to see, but a saint she’ll always be to me.’
I wrote most of my newspaper piece opposite the chair my Granny always sat in when she had soup and tea and cake in my house a few days a week. How utterly strange that she won’t sit there again, I won’t speak or listen to her wise words and kindness again.
My sister Clare cried as Granny won’t be there at her upcoming wedding. But she will be, C. In all the ways it matters.
I keep saying that I have lost my biggest fan, I really could do no wrong in my Granny’s eyes and even when my life was not going anywhere near how I hoped, she would heap the praises on me and I would feel a million times better about myself. She prayed for me everyday and I know it really helped me in my life, I can only hope she has a little more influence in the prayer department where she is now. Awk, I didn’t deserve it ever and we really didn’t deserve her.
My Granda has lost his ‘sweetheart’ and I can’t imagine what he is going through. He is blessed to have caring and loving children, I hope they can all find the solutions together and be comfortable and find peace.
Everyone can learn a lesson about what is important from my Granny Mc, and she will live on in many, many hearts. Not least mine.