Show me the way to go Home…

“I just feel so proud of her.” My strong mother said through her tears as we followed the lone bag-piper as he led my Granny Breslin to her final resting place. The song was called Going Home.

90 years on this earth. 1 month and one Mother’s Day she’s been gone.

Barely 2 days she shared with her own mother, who died through complications with birth. In the last maybe 15 years she kept her close to her heart on a photo pendant my dear uncle John bought for her. My Granny didn’t really talk about her mother much until she developed dementia. But it was the biggest pain and loss in her life, and she really could not wait to be reunited with her.

“She’ll be soon after her” they said when little Margaret Burns’ mother died. But 90 years, 14 children and 101 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren later… and what a legacy, what a life.

In one of our kitchen table mammoth tea and talking sessions my sister said “Think how terrified she must have been every time she was pregnant.” And it’s true…Yet she went through it 14 times, with only two of the younger ones born in hospital, the rest at home. Such a brave and selfless woman who just used her life to raise her children with her simple faith, strong morals and a lot of laughter.

My friends, and others who had never met Granny were reduced to tears at the funeral listening to all she had overcome between Derry and Scotland. Her father, a good man, died when she was 12 and herself and her sister found him when they returned from the cinema.

She was then raised by her beloved Aunt Annie in Derry, where both parents were from. “If he’s meant for you, he’ll come into the fireside.” Annie always said. And my Granda did just that, coming into the house to wait for Annie’s son Paddy every Friday night before they went to the pub. One day he asked Annie could he take Margaret to the ‘pictures.’ “You’ll have to ask her yourself.” Annie replied. My Granny was listening on the stairs, delighted.

They lived in a little house in Creggan, paying up for groceries, battling through the riots of the Troubles, and doing a miraculous job of raising 6 girls and 8 boys without murdering any of them!

I have to say, I’m biased, they’re my aunties and uncles, but the Breslins are an absolute credit to my Granny. I’m just so proud to be part of this family, and watching as they handled themselves, their grown up children, all the visitors with such grace and dignity at the wake and funeral. They are a big loving family of absolute characters, and although it was the saddest of circumstances we were delighted to see each other. The wake at times was an almost joyful occasion, which I thought maybe would have upset my mammy but she said it’s exactly what Granny would have wanted. Some of us (mostly cousins) had a drink after the soup and sandwiches of the funeral (I was the only one to volunteer to show my family up) and now we are hoping to organise a big cousins meet-up at least once a year.

Mother’s Day was yesterday, and the first one my own mother has spent without hers. I knew it would be difficult, so I had the idea of a version of my granny’s beloved photo pendant featuring a wee song my granny in her dementia especially liked to sing.

From here.

One of my favourite stories about my Granny, and it was told at the funeral, highlights her very healthy relationship with God. My auntie Eileen once found a piece of scone far from my Granny’s chair and jam dripping from the Sacred Heart picture. “You fairly knew your own mother!” she accused Jesus. Kind of regularly, actually!

She died on 14 February, Valentine’s Day. “She’s a wee lover” my Mammy said as she left to say her final goodbyes.

It comforts us all to think of the first Mother’s Day for two amazing long-suffering women. After 90 years. That’s love.

 

Margaret Breslin

7th October 1926 – 14th February 2017

Do You Realise?

You were buried today. Somewhere in Donegal, while I did a driving test. I last saw you about 10 years ago. Cancer, a young wife, a devastated family. You were 29 years old.

Thank you for giving me a handful of CDs to listen to, including Hello Starling by Josh Ritter which spellbound me straight away. (The rest is history!)

Thank you for shyly bringing me a heavy bag full of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. For liking me when I thought no one ever would.

You were never serious. You drank brandy at 19 and got in bar fights. You had a weirdly warped sense of humour. You lived for music. There were so many mad stories ten years ago, I bet they got more crazy as the years went on and the travelling intensified.

I’m debating whether to write to your family. I might. You really looked up to your brothers. A kind word can almost always help.

Praying and thinking about your parents, brothers and wife. The situation is shattering.

When I was 16 and you were 19 The Flaming Lips were your favourite. This song was on the first mix CD you made. It’s so relevant. I can’t stop singing it quietly. Liberated from suffering now, I hope you are always with your wife in spirit, and getting into stuff for free forever more.

Passing Comets

Picture from here
Picture from here

Just home. I went to a wake with my parents. They have two to go to today. A young man of 27 has died of Leukaemia after a recurring hard, hard battle of 20 years. I was at Search youth group at the same time as him ten years ago. My parents and his are friends. The house was packed. His mother, devastated but smiling and hugging. She wanted it to be over for him, but she didn’t want her eldest child to go. His tall, funny, friendly father now sombre but thankful for mercies. My mum and dad keep saying that they are ‘salt of the earth’ people. And they are.

Young men guarded the door and wiped away tears. You search for the words, get in the way. There’s not much to say. I know that his suffering and his friendship and his life will have touched others, and I hope that he’s not in pain, that he is happy and at peace. I hope love and prayers will envelope his Mother, Father and three siblings, and they will have the strength to go on, always remembering.

My only clear memory of this brave man is from my first induction weekend to Search Youth Group. There’s a special prayer time, after all the fun and the show of the entertainment, and everyone settles on the floor, late at on a Saturday night with candles burning before bed for prayers. It was always my favourite time if I’m honest. He sat on a stack of chairs, high above the rest of us (where he no doubt shouldn’t have been!) and eventually spoke into the dark about the cancer that almost killed him as a child. I’m not sure if his brave tears were pain, fear, or relief. He was 17 then. He was in long-term remission if I recall, and he was grateful. It always stayed with me, I don’t really remember his words, but his emotion and the huge ordeal he had faced, and unknowingly had yet to face. The example of speaking out and of voicing thankfulness and maybe fear.

I don’t feel qualified to talk about him, and I’m truly not jumping on the bandwagon or attention seeking in any way. Being confronted with such sad death wont leave my mind and heart and I’d like him to be remembered. It’s devastating when someone so young dies, and after so much pain. I truly believe that nothing is wasted and there are many reasons, and someday we will know.

Maybe I will someday share this with his family, or maybe it’s rambling and selfish. Maybe we could all do with remembering what really matters. ‘Focus on loving’ is what my dear Mammy says and I agree for once.

A lovely man who sang in the choir at mass for many years died today, also after a short illness with brain cancer. At the wake the young man’s Dad told us of another Derry man who died today aged 29, six weeks after his wedding, from sudden cancer.

Last night myself and my bestest buddy found ourselves free at the same time and went out for a drink last-minute. We just were able to talk about everything, which I actually don’t know has ever happened! Despite being a little afraid of half of Wetherspoons knowing my business (gin=loud) I feel better. And closer to her, and just some magic human connection that we all need. Grateful to have her and loved ones in my life.

Yesterday at the amazing Women of the World event that has come from Southbank Centre London to Derry twice now, I recognised a woman and it took me a while to place her. She’s a Life Coach that I went to a few times last year. I had almost forgotten about it. Immediately I felt dread in case she saw me. My life isn’t looking like much at the minute, specifically career wise. Then after a beat, I realised that the main things that I was struggling and discussing with her, and giving me much pain – are things that I have totally turned around. I said this to her, and she ‘squee-ed’ at my going for the Journalism, leaving the job and all the relationship stuff. But she nodded knowingly ‘I thought that might happen’ ‘I’m so happy!’ and although she wants to take the credit, I left feeling happier. Maybe I don’t have it all figured out at 25, maybe I worry and beat myself up so much, it’s looking like I’m going to have to eat humble pie and go into retail for a bit. But I’m blessed and loved, I do my best – everything does happen for a reason. When I’m not crying at my keyboard I do ok!

I raise my mug of tea to good people gone, families’ strength, life and loving and friendship.

I’m just a big bag of emotions and I hope I don’t hurt anyone or say too much. Feel free to let me know.

What happens to Christopher? Help please!

Hey, lovely blog readers. I’ve allowed myself a break for Easter and now I am tentatively thinking about University stuff again. I was wondering if you could help.

I have to write about 20 pages of script for my Creative Writing: Drama module. I’ve decided I am going to write the beginning of a film. An old man, lets call him Christopher. Christopher Gracy…finds himself in a large echoey, deserted railway station. Inside. Glass roof. Being forgetful, he doesn’t really panic about why he is there. He has died, though, and the train that eventually comes is going to take him to the great beyond.

That’s about as far as I’ve got. First someone suggested that he should see scenes from his life from the windows of the train. I liked this very much. My tutor suggested that everyone else on the train should slowly realise what’s happened/ where they are going. I wondered if Christopher should be alone on the train. Should the ticket man/ conductor be significant? Should the train be a type of purgatory where Christopher works through his unfinished business before arriving in Heaven? Perhaps memories will start to come back to him, as his forgetfulness melts with his earthly life.

Basically I can’t decide on any details… or fully formed story.  I’d be grateful for any ideas that you might have and want to contribute? I think ideas are one of the hardest things about writing. I would also rather be writing prose. Flowery and pretty language in the stage directions are lost on the audience!

For inspiration I’ve read The Great Divorce by C.S Lewis. It’s about heaven and hell and starts with people waiting for a bus, I was delighted to see.  I watched What Dreams May Come, the film from 1998 with Robin Williams. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. And I think I might be influenced by ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry‘ by Rachel Joyce which I am devouring guiltily at the moment. (I LOVE it. The first line is ‘The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday.’ Need I say more?)

It’s just another worry for me so the sooner my idea comes together the sooner I get writing… Thank you blog friends. I don’t mean to cheat, don’t give me your best ideas ever that you intend to write yourself, it just helps to bounce ideas off people… Just throw me some scraps 🙂

(photo from here)