On Friday last, my mother’s last remaining first cousin died. She was Teresa Dwyer, a lovely and good woman from Lumcloon, Monasteraden. I am so happy that I got to see her and share a prayer and the Sacrament of The Sick with her shortly before she died. Her funeral takes place in Monasteraden on this Tuesday and Wednesday. For now, I just want to remember her and ask a prayer for her and her family at this time. May she rest in peace. Amen.
We celebrated Teresa’s Funeral Mass in Monasteraden today (May 29th) at 11am. The Church was filled to capacity. I was joined by Frs Joe Gavigan and Martin Henry (Ballaghaderreen Parish) and Fr Greg Hannan (Ballymote) a cousin of the Dwyer family as well but on the Dwyers’ side. My connection was on Teresa’s side – she, as I mentioned, being my mother’s first cousin. Here I will try to recall the words shared today – I do this because I want to and also because John’s family (Teresa’s son) live in Australia and were not able to be present for the Mass. Perhaps these words will bring them a bit close to our celebration today. They are also for the family; Michéal, Francis, John, Dominic and Margaret, for their families and friends and, indeed, for anyone kind enough to give time to their reading. My hope is that they spoke well of the woman in whose memory we gathered and to the central teaching of our Faith that life is “changed not ended”.
Last night, as we drove in the funeral from Lumcloon, I was struck by three young lads who stood at the crossroads in the village They obviously had been having some fun but as the funeral approached, they stood, as one, as if on duty and showed a mark of respect for Teresa that ran much deeper than their years. They never moved until the last car passed by. Only then, did they feel they could resume their youthful exploration and fun. I’m sure many of you noticed them. I only recognised one face and that face brought me back more than twenty years to another funeral.
A young lad, called Mel Greene worked in the garage at home. One Friday evening he, along with a young friend, was killed in a car accident near Roscommon. He was buried on the following Tuesday. Most of us from the garage were there and after the burial, when people moved away from the grave – even Mel’s immediate family, one of the lads from the garage held back. When he thought nobody was looking, he leaned forward and dropped something into the grave. It wasn’t done for attention or notice and was meant to be a private moment. Someone had seen him though and asked what he’d done. At first he didn’t want to say but then told them that on that Friday evening, when Mel was leaving the garage, he asked him for a cigarette. Mel threw him a packet and though he said he only wanted one, Mel insisted; “I’ll get some later”, he told him. Sadly Mel was to die later that same evening (R.I.P.) and what was dropped into the grave was a packet of cigarettes. It was this lad’s way of paying back what he had been given the previous Friday. This lad, is an uncle of the young boy standing to attention as Teresa’s funeral passed the road last night. There’s a decency that spans the decades and is passed from generation to generation.
I think when we come to a funeral we do well to imitate that moment in a Roscommon Cemetery more than twenty years ago. All of us have something to give back today and that is why we’re here. It’s our opportunity to drop something into Teresa’s grave – that something may not be physical at all, but a memory, a thank you, a returned moment of love and acceptance. Each one of us here, has something to leave with Teresa today and it’s great to have the opportunity to do that. I know we will avail of that opportunity since there is much to be grateful for today and we willingly share that gratitude.
The first “Flock to The Lough” we held down at Clooncunney Bridge was a powerful occasion. I remember staying very late the first Friday night – so late that I was there for sunrise on the Saturday morning. It was a breathtaking experience as Lough Gara came alive to a new day. The waters mirrored the sky, the swans came alive and all was truly at it should be. That night I spoke about this at Mass in Ballaghaderreen and made the point that though I’d grown up beside Lough Gara I had never seen this before and that sometimes we can be very close to something precious and beautiful and miss it completely. That night I didn’t stay late at the festival but some of the committee – a fine committee, many of them working around your house the last few days – stayed on. Late in the night, when most of the crowd was gone, the Gardai arrived. They drove down to the shore and parked. The committee members thought something had happened and when they went to enquire, the gardai told them that there was nothing wrong but that they had been at Mass in Ballaghaderreen and that I’d described the sunrise the day before so they came to see it for themselves!! It was a lovely response to the message shared at Mass. They came out “on trust”, believing that what I said was true. That is the Faith we live by. We are here today because we have been told this is “not the end” and that there is “life beyond this moment”. It’s in that faith we gather to pray with and for Teresa today that she is born into a new sunrise, more spectacular than the human eye has seen or mind can imagine. We are here in faith.
Last night, Fr Joe asked me to lead a decade of the Rosary at the conclusion of our prayers here in the church. I chose the Mystery of the Visitation (second Joyful Mystery) since it’s a favourite of mine. Afterwards, Michael and Caroline, Teresa’s grand-nephew and grand-niece, told me “you hit the nail on the head there”. They recognised the significance of the “visitation” in Teresa’s life. That led me to today’s Gospel passage, where Mary sets out to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Why? Because Elizabeth needs her and it was the right thing to do. What did Mary and Elizabeth do? They spent time together, spoke (in the Magnificat) of older generations and showed welcome and love for the future generation “the child in my womb leapt for joy”. Visitation was important to Our Lady and appreciated by her cousin Elizabeth.
That’s my link, in many ways, with Teresa. My mother – Teresa’s first cousin – used love to visit her. Quite often I’d be at home at night, settled in front of the television and content to be there. The potentially relaxed evening would often be interrupted by my mother saying “do you know what, we’ll go up to Dwyers for a while”. God forgive me, it was often the last thing I wanted to hear but nearly always I went and absolutely always I was glad I did. It was a lovely house to visit. Stories would be shared. food supplied and memories re-lived. Like Mary and Elizabeth, my mother and Teresa would talk of generations past. They were both well passed the time of “babies leaping in their wombs!!” but there was a connection there that was real and special. I loved Gerry and the way he’d laugh. Always there were good stories and you’d leave the house all the better for being there. My mother was right to “go to Dwyer’s” and I’m glad I went with her. I number these among very happy memories.
In terms of putting things back today – giving things back – I think that’s one area we’d do well to put centre stage – that idea of “visitation”. It’s so important and so helpful. Sadly, it’s fair to say, we’ve lost it a bit in our generation but on a day like this, it’s worth thinking about its central place in our lives. We visit those who matter and it’s in recognising those who matter, we find much of our focus. Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months, we’re told, and then went back home. In other words, we stay with people for as long as it takes. That’s at the heart of visitation.
Teresa lived for her family. She was, at heart, a family woman and your joys were hers, your worries hers and above all your dreams were hers. She delighted to see you do well, find your direction and find peace. I want to say that over the past few days I have been deeply impressed by you all. Your dignity around your mother’s death is a powerful witness. I know that you have faith. I can see it and want you to know that you – we – are part of a generation that has lost or misplaced faith quite easily but not so yourselves. It’s clearly evident you believe and that comes from the woman around whom we gather today. Be very grateful to her for the Faith shared and handed on. She would be very proud of you all these days. We all are.
She was happy to have you around her and though John and Dominic live in Australia she kept in regular contact with them. She may not have walked your geography but she was totally at one with your journey and rejoiced in your contentment, family and friends.
She very much loved Gerard or “dad” as she called him and it was lovely to see. They enjoyed each other so much and it was special to see them laugh together as they shared a story or enjoyed listening to one. I once attended a house where an old woman had dropped dead. I was twenty-four years old and scarcely knew what to say though I knew people looked to me for an answer. I remember telling the old man that he was lucky to have so many good neighbours and friends. He readily agreed but added “it doesn’t matter how many of them come through the door, they’ll never replace the woman that’s going to be carried out through the door. We were great friends and we knew each other’s ways”. I thought it the best definition of marriage I’ve ever heard. To be able to say of someone you’ve shared your life with that “we were best friends and we knew each other’s ways” must be the most special of all things to say. I think we’d agree today that it sums up Gerry and Teresa very well. They were “great friends”.
As I conclude, I’m reminded of Teresa’s move back into the old home in recent years. They had lived for many years in their new home and it’s strange that all during that time, their wedding ring was missing. It was only in the move back to the old house that the ring was discovered in an unused vase. How appropriate that Teresa was able to move back home with her wedding ring back in place. It was, quite literally, the closing of the circle and seems totally appropriate. It was a way of saying “the circle is complete”. So it was and I’d love to believe there’s another circle completed now as Teresa steps into the New and Eternal Home.
May she rest in peace. Amen.
Valerie is going to read a favourite poem of Teresa’s at the graveside but, for now, I’d like to borrow the closing lines from it.I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core. POST COMMUNION REFLECTION Dominic read the following reflection “on death” from “THE PROPHET” by Kahlil Gibran “We would ask now of Death.”
And he said: You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light. If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the sheered not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink form the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.