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

A little tribute to a special lady

Maria on her 69th birthday on 12 June, the day after my 23rd birthday.

My boyfriend lost his grandmother on Monday 12 November. She was 69 years old and had been battling lung (and then bone cancer) from about April of this year. She was a special lady and I’d like to dedicate a little slice of lemon cake to her.

Maria was a small Scottish woman, the centre of her family. She had a great accent and a wonderful sense of humour. She lost her parents at a young age, and moved to Derry, N. Ireland to live with a relative. She was married to Frankie, and they had five children. My M was the first grandchild, she had 11. When M was 7 his Mum moved back in with her parents for a few months and Maria and Frankie graciously welcomed her, M and his little brother and two baby sisters into their home which already housed their 4 remaining children. M and his brother slept in a room with their 3 teenage uncles, and as we quietly sat by Maria’s side at the wake telling stories, we marvelled that they had all fitted into that little room.

The wedding album was on show at the wake, the photos were beautiful. It was 1968. Maria wore a simple dress with long flared sleeves, a very puffy veil, and wicked eyeliner. M’s Mum is the image of her. Frankie looked tall, proud and happy. I wish I had a photo to show you. I will ask M. Everyone admired it. It was gorgeous, I would be glad to have such a lovely wedding album and so bittersweet  to see all that life and hope and happiness.

Maria would make dinner ‘tea’ for her whole family including the grandchildren every Thursday, and in her wonderful Scottish accent would ask them, ‘Do you want tea with your tea?’ We said it so much that about 5 years ago, I think it was M’s 20th birthday, our friend Aisling made him a mug that had those words on it. Tea and custard creams were her favourite, and on the first night of the wake one of the younger children put a cup and a custard cream in with their Granny.

It must have been New Years 2011, at M’s family home, we all stood up to hug and kiss and go outside to see the Chinese Lanterns filling the skies, Maria took my arm and said ‘Open the window. We did that in Scotland to let the old year out and the new year in.’ I really liked this and it will always stay with me.

M and I had a break earlier this year, it was a very hard, sad time for us. We missed each other a lot and one day we decided to meet to chat the next time I was home from Belfast. We went to our favourite Starbucks in the car and before we had any sort of talk we caught up and he told me both his Granny and Granda were ill and his Granny had cancer. I just cried. It was a mixture of everything, not being there for him when he found this out and for wee, gentle Maria.

Even though she was ill she came to family gatherings for a little while, she gave all she could. She was very excited at the birth of her newest grand daughter Annie in August.  The end still came as a shock to her husband, daughters and sons and grandchildren and friends. She got taken into hospital on Sunday morning, and she died peacefully surrounded by her family in the early hours of Monday morning.

So many people came to the house over the two days, it was really good for the family. They all pulled together, and as they are a close family anyway, it wasn’t strange to have everyone together , just comforting. I have learned that their are different ways to be close.

M did a reading at the funeral Mass, it was very difficult for him and both his auntie and the priest quietly offered to do it for him. He refused and battled through it, I know he was determined to do it for Maria and I was so proud. He feels like he has let his Granny down but I know she would be even prouder. I wished I could have walked over and cuddled him in the middle of Mass. I know he held a special place in her heart, he made her laugh more than anyone.

I was glad to know her, she was greatly loved and will be missed dearly.

God bless, Maria. You have a beautiful family who will make you proud. Look out for them all and we will keep you in our prayers as you always prayed for us x

The two brothers with their Granny in 2010.