Two powerful memories stay with me from the time my mother died, both of them meteorological. I travelled down by car from Belfast port to a hotel in Fivemiletown, Coutny Tyrone and all along that journey I was facing directly into a blazing and setting sun. The sky was yellow and amber and red, brightness eventually fading as we reached our destination for the night. I recognised that sky and that sun for what they were, a symbol of my mother’s long life, which had now come to its end, sinking into the west.
Two days later, on the morning of my mother’s funeral, the heavens opened and torrential rain fell from the skies on Westport, County Mayo, all through the time of the requiem mass and the journey to Aughval cemetery outside the town. Only when we arrived at the graveyard did the skies relent and an interlude of blue sky and morning silence descended upon the gathered mourners, as we laid our mammy to rest. I see that pouring rain now as a fitting tribute, tears of sorrow for someone who was so good in life, so loving and so worthy of heaven’s applause.
Death is always a shock. When I walked into the room where my mammy’s coffin lay, the sudden seeing of her lifeless body took my breath away. For that moment I was stunned and faced to the wall in order to absorb the shock and face its truth. How could there be no life in this body that I knew so well: The spirit gone. Yes, as my sister whispered to me over the phone the night she died, ‘She’s gone, Brian, she’s gone.’
Now, today, twelve years on from those mournful times, I feel my mother lives with me every day: my father, too, and my beloved Margaret. Held in my heart and always remembered. And spoken to. Gone is a good word. It says exactly what has happened. It is no euphemism. It is a truth. Gone. Gone where? Gone to God who holds all things in being.
23 October 2022