Earlier today I went to the home of a friend in Monasteraden for lunch. Before that I called to the garage at home for a while and, since I had a bit of time between that and the time set for lunch, I decided to visit a few people. I called to see Maureen O’Neill, our neighbour, and was happy to see her and Anne McKeon who was visiting at the time. We had a chat for a while and I was reminded again how good it is to have that freedom to be able to call to one another’s homes. There’s no doubt, we don’t do it often enough …. Sorry, I don’t do it often enough.
When I left there I thought that I’d go and say a quick prayer for my parents at their grave in Templeronan. I was there just before noon and, remembering that the Angelus was one of my mother’s favourite prayers, I said it there with and for them.
I was about to leave the cemetery when I decided that I was in no rush and that I’d take a bit of time there near my parents’ grave. I think I know almost everyone who is buried in that part of the cemetery – my uncle Joe, being one of the first – if not the first – God rest them all. My Godmother, May Callaghan and her husband Mattie are in the next plot to my parents. My classmate, Fr Oliver McDonagh, just down the path, Tony Scanlon, Joe McDermott, Pat Doherty, James McGrath, Christy McLoughlin, Mike Joe Mulligan, Hugh Breslin and so, so many more – all people I knew and was reminded of again today as I walked around and said a quiet prayer for them all.
Having spent a bit of time there, I decided to wander into the older part of the cemetery where my mother’s people are buried – her grandparents, parents, brother John and her aunt Jane. John was the only one of them I knew. The others I knew through their being named by my mother.
I wandered around the older part of the cemetery and saw names there that I’d never heard of, Callery being one, and I wondered has that family totally disappeared now. Other names brought back many memories, Matthew Giblin (my aunt’s father) and his wife Elizabeth. I was amazed how long it is since they’ve died. I saw Tom Quinn’s headstone and remembered him and, I think, his funeral back in the mid 70s. I saw the graves of Leo and Marcy McDermott and remembered those “ghost stories” Marcy told us in Mullaghroe and how afraid I’d be after them! My uncle John took them in his stride but they never sat easily with me! Happy memories of Leo and Marcy though. I saw Celia Hunt’s headstone and remember, as a child, visiting her home. I asked her for a drink and she told me she could get me a glass of water. Not impressed, I told her “I could get that at home”!! Peter, her husband, buried there too. I never knew him but remember my father talking about him. I saw Mick McLoughlin’s grave and remember him and Cuppanagh so well. I saw McDonaghs’ grave and, in particular, the photo of the man we all knew as “Little Bert”, whose funeral Mass I celebrated. I was surprised that he was just 60 – he always seemed so young but I hadn’t realised how really young he was. I was happy to celebrate his son’s Wedding Ceremony in the recent past. I saw the headstone of Mrs Wynne who died a month or so before I was ordained – I have a card her family sent to me at the time – I noted her son Joseph’s name at the bottom of the headstone, a reminder that he had remembered his parents and marked the place they’re buried so that someone like me might stop and say a prayer for them. There were so many names, so many headstones, so many memories.
These people are our past and maybe in my wandering for a while today, I am part of their present. Those names will float around a while with me …. take me to other days and other times – Mass in Cloonloo, marquees in the field, sports days near Lough Gara, Tug-of-Wars, people driving up home to get their cars fixed … people that made a difference to me.
Those headstones tell so many stories – my grandparents’ one, in particular, remind me that my mother lost her father when she was about seven years old and that she was the oldest of three. Her mother lived for another thirty-five years and that Jane Healy helped her to bring up her children. My grandmother died when I was just under two years of age so I’ve no lived memory of her but my mother kept her real for us and knew how hard she had worked to provide for her family.
Despite the way it may seem, this was not a sad experience but rather one that put me feet first into my place and people.
I went from there to spend a short while with Madge Taheny in Mullaghroe. I hadn’t seen her in a while and knew that earlier this month she re-lived those days around Seán’s death as they marked his first anniversary. It was good to see her. It was mighty to see she has an iPad and well done to the family for getting it for her. I’ve no doubt she’ll make use of it. She told me she has visited my blog and I was glad to hear that.
It was time for lunch! I was hungry … I was happy to have remembered friends from other days and to be able to share a bit of time with the friends of now ….
A good day all round!