Tag: mother

Stations of a life in 14 photographs

Monday, 23 November, 2015 0 Comments

The handbag my mother took with her on the last journey of her life contained a variety of objects that encapsulated her character. Along with the practical — tissues, mints, vital phone numbers scribbled on scraps of paper — there was the metaphysical: a rosary beads, a prayer book, holy medals and a memorial card of her late husband. This combination of faith and practicality made her the person that she was. The contents of that handbag reflected a personality conscious of the detail of the everyday and devoted to a traditional Irish spiritualism that is as ancient as the water from sacred wells and as modern as using a mobile phone to find out for whom the latest bell has tolled.

Along with Mass, the Rosary, graveyard visitations and pilgrimages to Knock Shrine and Lough Derg, my mother’s canon of devoutness included the Stations of the Cross, with their depictions of Christ’s sufferings and death. As Piero Marini, Archbishop of Martirano in Calabria, puts it, these 14 images “shed light on the tragic role of the various characters involved, and the struggle between light and darkness, between truth and falsehood, which they embody.” In the spirit of the Stations of the Cross, the coming fortnight here will be given over to meditations on 14 photographs that reflect key aspects of my mother’s life. We begin tomorrow with Work.

The handbag contents


Barthes and the irreplaceable being

Thursday, 12 November, 2015 0 Comments

Had he lived, French philosopher, critic, writer and semiotician Roland Barthes would be 100 today. In Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, he ponders a picture of his late mother and writes: “For what I have lost is not a Figure (the Mother), but a being; and not a being, but a quality (a soul): not the indispensable, but the irreplaceable.”

Mammy and Prince and Cat


Those articulate scones

Wednesday, 28 October, 2015 0 Comments

The scones

No photograph nor no text can convey the warmth of what came out of that oven. Yes, the baking was all about converting ingredients — flour, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, butter, raisins — into food, but there was something else going on. Maybe “improvised tradition” is near the mark as each batch was different. No slavish adherence to a recipe handed down the ages, here. Creativity was at play. A pinch of this and a fistful of that altered the balance each time the scones were made.

When they were placed on the old wire trays, almost too hot to handle, the first tasting took place. It was all very far from what takes place when wine connoisseurs get together, but there were similarities. The aroma, with its remembrances of things past; the initial impact of legacy on the tongue; the lingering aftertaste of love crafted into nourishment.

“How does it taste?” The question deserved far more than the prosaic “fine” and “good” that were usually offered, but poetry was beyond us. The scones were more articulate.


Found wisdom

Friday, 16 October, 2015 1 Comment

My mother had a habit of jotting down facts, figures and bits of wisdom that took her fancy. The scripts were ornamented with arrows, underscores and ambiguous spellings. Here’s an example:

Mammy's wisdom


Grief is just love with no home

Sunday, 11 October, 2015 0 Comments

Mammy and Daddy

“Trying to remember you
is like carrying water
in my hands a long distance
across sand. Somewhere people are waiting.
They have drunk nothing for days.”

Stephen Dobyns


A month of mourning and cake

Tuesday, 6 October, 2015 1 Comment

How does one measure the extent, the expanse of human loss? And when it involves the loss of a beloved mother, how does one explain the feeling of anguish left by the absence of so constant and cherished a presence? Words fail. Although a month has elapsed since her death, the pain remains acute.

One source of comfort in these sad days is the support offered by her friends and neighbours. Their loyalty and support is heroic and the beautiful memorial cake baked by the saintly Milly Hanley expresses love better than any phrase or sentence. The act of taking the time to create something nourishing in the style favoured by my mother is the ultimate tribute to her legacy.

Milly's memorial cake


In Memory Of My Mother

Sunday, 6 September, 2015 1 Comment

Our loss is enormous. Our hearts are broken. Our sorrow is great. Our hope is that our mother, Catherine O’Donnell-Fitzgerald (29 July 1928 – 6 September 2015), will smile up at us and down on us — eternally — because we will be forever in her debt.

In Memory Of My Mother

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday —
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle — ‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life —
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us — eternally.

Patrick Kavanagh

Mammy


To My Mother

Sunday, 6 September, 2015 0 Comments

Now that the great battle has entered its final round, it is time to dwell upon the “love of unforgotten times” as Robert Louis Stevenson so perfectly termed it.

To My Mother

You too, my mother, read my rhymes
For love of unforgotten times,
And you may chance to hear once more
The little feet along the floor.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894)

My mother


Mother o’ Mine

Tuesday, 28 January, 2014 0 Comments

This poem/prayer by Rudyard Kipling is dedicated to the Rainy Day mother who is recuperating currently.

Mother o’ Mine

If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

Rudyard Kipling (1865 — 1936)

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me,” said Abraham Lincoln. “They have clung to me all my life.” It’s the same here.


In a country churchyard

Sunday, 1 April, 2012

A life remembered

“So we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night
Though the heart still be as loving
And the moon still be as bright.”

Lord Byron


Family photo taken by my mother in 1948

Sunday, 8 January, 2012

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing ā€” to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from ā€” my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it […]

Continue Reading »