Once again, I’m put in a situation of grievance following the sudden passing of somebody very close to me. This time it was not only a close relative but a friend. You were somebody who cared for me from my first breath and held onto me for your last. My relationship with you was like no other, we lived with each other, you helped raise me, we spent all our holidays together, we even shared a bedroom for a couple of years. Although we argued like an ‘old couple’, it was only because we were so similar. I will never forget the twenty-one years of memories we shared together Nanny Largey.
Sadly, given the current global epidemic that is Covid-19 you will be unable to have a funeral fitting for the most loved woman in my life. For everybody you encountered if it was family, friends, acquaintances or even strangers you met at the bus stop, you would always communicate to them. When I was growing up, I felt embarrassed standing next to you speaking to strangers but now I realise how kind and what a genuinely rare trait that is to have. This is the same with everybody who you met, one thing my friends always remembers when leaving our house is their encounter with you. An example that comes to mind is when I had a house party and you made cups of teas for everybody at 2am, you were never one to shy away from joining in and have a laugh. No matter what event we dragged you to you would always be the last person to leave. Sadly, you will look down and not be able to see the friends you made from all walks of life and every person you impacted throughout your journey. With a heavy heart I say you will never realise how much your presence will be missed.
Well that is until your birthday. Once this virus becomes a thing of the past and we return to civilisation as we know it. I assure you, no I promise you one thing Maureen, the weekend dated 11th-13thDecember will host the dates for the biggest celebration of the year. A party fit for the original Belfast girl. No function room will be big enough to hold every person you impacted. Family, friends and more will come to pay their respects from all around the world for one reason and that is to celebrate a life that has been lived like no other.
Growing up story like no other
Although, it wasn’t an easy life that is for sure. Born in Belfast in 1934 you grew up during the war and lived through the troubles of Northern Ireland, although that was nothing compared to the personal battles you faced during your time. Following the passing of your father at a young age and growing up with ten siblings, times were tough mentally and financially for your family. This is why you began working at the age of eight as a dishwasher in a chip shop (standing on a box because you could not reach the sink). This changed when you got older as one job was not enough, having to work for three separate cleaning companies each day and night to help the family get by. Sometimes this wasn’t enough, I. remember you telling me you had to even pawn your engagement ring just so you can afford the weekly food shop.
A mothers loss is the worst sort of pain
Although in 1954 you had somebody else to take care of, your first child Christine who was expected on Christmas day. Sadly, this was a short-lived relationship as Christine was born with Spina Bifida and passed away only a few months later. Christmas day was always a difficult time for you as you never gotten over the heartache, despite your dementia you never forgot your first born. Since the passing of Christine, you went on to have three more children (Maureen, Eamon, Denise). You outlived two of them.
Between the years 2011 – 2013, Maureen and Eamon were diagnosed with two varieties of cancer and sadly passed away. Maureen suffered from stomach cancer and Eamon had throat cancer. These tragedies were tough on all of us, but I can’t imagine what it must have felt like burying three of your own children. Maureen battled for just short of five months and Eamon outlived his expectancy. He was taken off life support three days short of St Patrick’s day, although his spirit and fight knew he had one last celebration in him. Despite being stuck in the hospital ward, you decorated the room in green, white and gold to give Eamon a true Irish Paddy’s day send off. Three days later Eamon passed away.
This left my mother Denise to be the only living child of your own with your ex-husband Dan. Thankfully my mom is still here, and she carried on her promise made with Maureen to always look after you. Until the day you left this world, Denise was there by your side. Every doctor’s appointment, every holiday and every event you attended my mom was always right beside you for the journey. No matter how hard it was for my mother balancing family life with work and becoming a full-time carer for you, she never complained and was always there to give you your morning wash and made sure you were fit for the day ahead. Alongside this followed the passing of your ex-husband which affected my mother massively. This only got more difficult when you were diagnosed with dementia and you began to suffer mentally. Some days you forgot where you were and became a shadow of who you once were, from somebody who used to walk from your flat to our house every day and catch the bus into town, you became afraid to even leave the house alone.Religious relief
As a devoted catholic this affected your trips to mass every Sunday. This especially was a tough pill to swallow as it was something you did every weekend consistently for over 80 years. Instead every night before bed you would pray for everybody and on Tuesday you would light a candle in the house to pay your respects to those who are deceased. Within these prayers you would always wish me support and guidance before any job interviews, exams or big occasions to guide me and I will always be thankful for you watching over me and now that expression has become literal, I hope you are looking down proud of me Nan.
Only you could be a catholic who gave birth to her first child on Christmas Day and pass away on Good Friday. We shall light a candle for you and pay our respects to a woman that will never be forgotten.
Your struggles, your pain, your achievements and your beliefs all tie together fittingly to tell the story of a strong woman who fought to the end.
Life was not always doom and gloom, you saw your legacy grow from becoming a mother to a grandmother to seeing the birth of seven great-grandkids. You were always surrounded by people who loved you more than anything and was willing to help out whenever necessary. You grew and taught us everything we know. How to be respectful, polite, staying grounded and to make sure to never take anything for granted. “Money can’t buy you the most important thing in life and that’s your health and happiness” you would always tell me these words when I felt down. I repeat this saying more than ever, be thankful for everything you have during times like this, because you do not realise how quickly it can all be taken away from you.Your final chapter
Last year I wrote a short biography for my university module about your life titled ‘The blood of an Irish woman’ although, sadly that was to be your final chapter. I could honestly write a book about your long life which was full of unique experiences and special moments in abundance. You were truly one in a billion.
You knew your time was near as you began reciting the names of all deceased family members letting them know you can hear them. Well now heaven has gained a beautiful angel greeted at the doors by your children and siblings who you are now once again reunited for life.
On Friday 10thApril 2020, your heart had its final beat as you took your last breath, the world lost somebody truly special. There are so many things I would want to say to you, even to have one more chat would mean everything, but this is the best I can do. As I sit writing my second part of this chapter of my life full of loss, hopefully this will be the final instalment for a long time. I’m blessed to have shared my entire life with the most selfless, loving and caring guardian I could have ever wished for.
I’m thankful for all the memories we shared and everything you taught me. Now and forever you will remain my guardian angel. I love you nan, this isn’t goodbye… it’s just see you later.
Here’s to you my oldest friend x