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Tag: mother

A single candle can defy the darkness

Friday, 29 July, 2016 1 Comment

Today, we remember, with sadness and joy, the birthday of Catherine O’Donnell-Fitzgerald (29 July 1928 – 6 September 2015). Her generosity, wit and hospitality were legendary and her legacy of love is a permanent reminder that some families are blessed by goodness and some are not. It is true that when the sun has set, no candle can replace it, but it is equally true that a single candle can defy the darkness.

Blowing the candles out

“If you don’t grieve for the dead, how can you mourn for the living?” — John le Carré, Smiley’s People


Green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart

Wednesday, 20 July, 2016 0 Comments

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” — Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat

Mother's garden of flowers


Remembering those who built for us

Saturday, 18 June, 2016 0 Comments

On 18 June 1952, Michael Fitzgerald and Catherine O’Donnell were married in the village of Lisvernane, County Tipperary. The ceremony was followed by a meal at Riversdale House Hotel in the Glen of Aherlow. Transport for the bride and her family was via a Ford V8 driven by Jack Fraser, grocer/publican/undertaker, but cars were scarce in the Ireland of the early 1950s so some of the guests cycled. The wedding cake was prepared by the bride, baked by Mrs Ryan-Russell, who had a Stanley Range cooker, and the icing was added by the confectionery specialists of Kiely’s Bread Company in Tipperary town. The sun shone and the couple went on to spend 59 years together, during which time they earned love and respect from those who loved and respected them.

Mammy and Daddy

Scaffolding is one of the first poems Seamus Heaney wrote. It’s a metaphorical work about the construction of a marriage and the measures needed to keep it firm in the face of the shocks. Walls of “sure and solid stone” will be strong enough to stand on their own, says Heaney. “Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall / Confident that we have built our wall.”

Scaffolding

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Seamus Heaney (1939 — 2013)


The Unmothered

Sunday, 8 May, 2016 0 Comments

Given that our blog is called Rainy Day, we’re adding malkosh to our vocabulary of raindrops and teardrops. Backgrounder:

“I always thought that literature’s draw lay in making me identify with people and situations that were as different from my lived experience as possible. But my mother’s death changed that. It made me seek out my own kind — the left-behind and the heartbroken. The unmothered.”

So writes Ruth Margalit in a New Yorker essay titled The Unmothered. To express the immense sense of loss she feels without her mother, Margalit calls ups the Hebrew word malkosh, which means “last rain,” and which can only be applied in retrospect:

“When it’s raining, you have no way of knowing that the falling drops would be the last ones of the year. But then time goes by, the clouds clear, and you realize that that rain shower was the one. Having a mother — being mothered — is similar, in a way. It’s a term that I only fully grasp now, with the thirst of hindsight: who she was, who I was for her, what she has equipped me with.

Like a last rain, my mother left behind an earthy scent that lingered long after she was gone. Like a last rain, for a fleeting moment, everything she touched seemed to glow.”

Rain and tears


Listeners at the wall of stone and hope

Thursday, 5 May, 2016 1 Comment

“Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” — G.K. Chesterton

Knock

“Every mental act is composed of doubt and belief, but it is belief that is the positive, it is belief that sustains thought and holds the world together.”
Søren Kierkegaard


Mother’s cake

Sunday, 17 April, 2016 0 Comments

“His father is out cutting wood, so he goes to his mother.
‘Mother, I must away and see the world, or I shall go mad.’
Says his mother, ‘If you must go, go you must, and God go with you! I will bake you a cake. Will you have a little cake with my blessing, or a big cake with my cursing?’
Says Jack, ‘Make me a big cake, mother. It will last longer.’
His mother makes him a big cake, and he sets out. And she is standing on the roof of the house, calling curses after him as far as she can see him.”

The Red King and the Witch: Gypsy Folk and Fairy Tales by Ruth Manning-Sanders

Mother's cake


Good Friday meditation

Friday, 25 March, 2016 0 Comments

One of the earliest Christian poems in English is The Dream of the Rood. Language note: The Old English word ‘rood’ means ‘crucifix’. Recorded by scribes in the 10th-century Vercelli Book, The Dream of the Rood is carved in Anglo-Saxon runes on the 8th century Ruthwell Cross, and is one of the most valuable works of Old English verse.

The sorrowful quality of the religious rites of Good Friday day reminds us of Christ’s humiliation and suffering on this day. This excerpt from The Dream of the Rood is dedicated to all those who were humiliated and tortured in life. Their brave defiance of “wicked men” inspires us every day.

“Now you may understand, dear warrior,
That I have suffered deeds of wicked men
And grievous sorrows. Now the time has come
That far and wide on earth men honour me,
And all this great and glorious creation,
And to this beacon offers prayers. On me
The Son of God once suffered; therefore now
I tower mighty underneath the heavens,
And I may heal all those in awe of me.
Once I became the cruelest of tortures,
Most hateful to all nations, till the time
I opened the right way of life for men.”

Mammy praying


The Saint Patrick’s Day badge

Thursday, 17 March, 2016 0 Comments

It was my mother’s custom to send a Saint Patrick’s Day badge annually to be worn on the big day; to display the identity that meant so much to her; to represent her notion of nation in the wider world. No badge arrived this year and no badge will arrive ever again. Last year, conscious of her declining health, she made provision for 2016. The badge will be worn today and every moment of the wearing will be a tribute to her kindness and to her memory. Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

St Patrick's Day

St Patrick's Day


The Sorrowful Mystery

Sunday, 6 March, 2016 3 Comments

Six months have come and gone since 6 September and the pain, the loss, the grief is undiminished. Everything changed when that great force of nature and nurture known as “Mother” left us. It’s been a sorrowful time.

Sorrowful are the Mysteries of the Rosary, one of my mother’s favourite prayer rituals. From the perspective of a young boy, the nightly incantation of the Rosary was a chore but there were moments when the boredom cracked and something intriguing broke through the beads. Strange words tumbled out between the ‘Glory Be’ and the ‘Hail Mary’ and so was born a love of language.

The Rosary Vocabulary

“To thee do we send up our sighs.”

In the beginning was alliteration: several sad sighs sent since

“Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.”

The geography of suffering was mapped out early. Young travellers would have to learn how to weep.

“So that by her fervent intercession we may be delivered from present evils.”

If there is going to be intercession, then let it be fervent. Who needs timidity when faced with present evils?

Eternal gratitude to you, Mother, for the love and the love of language.

Mammy praying on the road to Knock


The feast day of Saint Brigid

Monday, 1 February, 2016 0 Comments

“Anois teacht an Earraigh
beidh an lá dúl chun shíneadh,
Is tar eis na féil Bríde
ardóigh mé mo sheol.”

So wrote Raftery (1779 – 1835), the last of the wandering Gaelic poets. His verse says that spring is coming and the days will begin to lengthen, so he’s going to move out in the world once the feast of St Brigid has been celebrated.

Today, 1 February is the Saint Brigid’s Day that Raftery commemorated in Anois teacht an Earraigh (“Now, the coming of the Spring”), but there’s little evidence of the coming of spring where Raftery once roamed. The weather there is anything but vernal. To be sure, there’s “a stretch in the evening”, as the people say, but it’s wild, wet and windy in Mayo. An unscientific analysis of Raftery’s poem then might lead one to conclude that our winters are getting colder, not warmer, as some now claim. The poet certainly suggests that it was quite mild in early February at the beginning of the 19th century.

Why was the wandering poet Raftery so aware of St Brigid’s Feast? Back in his day, the first of February was considered the start of the growth season in rural Ireland. The date had long been held sacred as Imbolg, the Celtic festival of Spring, but after Christianity arrived, Saint Brigid was honoured instead of the pagan gods. The Greatest! She was a fifth-century mystic who became the patron saint of blacksmiths and healers. My mother always attended the “blessing of the scarves” in the local church on this day and, like many believers, she regarded the wearing of such a scarf to be far better protection against a sore throat than any amount of antibiotics. Saint Brigid was also the patron saint of poets, a second reason, perhaps, for Raftery’s mentioning of her feast day.

Being a saint, Brigid was able to perform miracle. Most of hers involved the multiplication of food such as providing butter for the poor, and the not-so poor. It is said that she once caused cows to give milk three times the same day to enable some visiting bishops to have enough to drink. As Irish monks wandered through Europe, they carried their belief in Brigid with them. In England, many churches were dedicated to her, most notably St. Bride’s Church in London’s Fleet Street. Designed by Wren, it was the spiritual home of the printing and media trades for 200 years. And now it’s in cyberspace — where most hacks and ink-stained drudges such as St. Matt (?) hang out.

RTE logo 1961 Apart from the blessed scarves, the last vestiges of the Brigid devotion in Ireland today are plaited crosses fashioned from rushes. In 1961, when the Irish Republic decided to launch a national television service, the St Brigid’s Cross was chosen as its logo and it remained part of the station’s corporate identity for many years before being reduced to such a stylized form as to be all but unrecognizable.

The spiral of the Saint Brigid’s Cross invokes the pattern that the seven stars of the Plough asterism makes in the night sky during the course of a year. The Plough turns through the seasonal year like the hands of a clock and it is now bringing us into the spring of renewal. Anois teacht an Earraigh…


The tropic of grief

Wednesday, 20 January, 2016 0 Comments

“Let me tell you something about her,” Julian Barnes wrote of his wife, the literary agent Pat Kavanagh, in the half-chapter of A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, published in 1989. In fact, Barnes told readers very little about her.

Pat Kavanagh died in in 2008, five weeks after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, and Julian Barnes needed five years before he could express his anguish in book form. Levels of Life is that book. Actually, it’s three essays and only in the final one does Barnes approach the great love that gave way to the great grief he endured and continues to endure. Distraught by how many memories of Pat he has lost, he lists what he remembers: the last clothes she bought, the last wine she drank, the last book she read. But he doesn’t reveal what they were.

Rightly, Barnes is contemptuous of the euphemism “passed” and he quotes E. M. Forster: “One death may explain itself, but it throws no light upon another.” The condolences offered to the grieving are enumerated and rejected: suffering makes you stronger, things get easier after the first year, you will be reunited in the next life. There is no comfort in formulae, no compensation in phrases.

“This is what those who haven’t crossed the tropic of grief often fail to understand: the fact that someone is dead may mean that they are not alive, but doesn’t mean that they do not exist.” — Julian Barnes, Levels of Life

In Lisvernane