It’s always around my mother’s birthday that the tiny pangs of sadness turn to harpoons of loss. She was the soundtrack of my life. The old playlist still makes its way into my consciousness more often than you might think for a grown woman. Yet, I cannot imagine so many of my life’s experiences without acknowledging my connection to them through a reference to her. When not permeated with music from the radio or record player, I could be sure to hear her lilting voice ringing through the quiet. Even now, when at a loss for what to say or do, I see her whispering in my mind’s eye – an attitude, some advice, encouragement, humor, some ridiculously silly thing – but always uniquely Máireád.
At the memorial service at her job, the troubled boys she worked with spoke of her always remembering their needs. She was like that. Her mantra, “If you see something needs to be done – do it!” daily skips through my memory. The boys took notice. They confided – she was the one they could count on for all the little things that made life bearable – nail clippers, lotion, chapstick, whatever. One boy laughed about the fact that she was so great at remembering everything except their names, he giggled, “She always called us Pat!” He didn’t know that she had their names on her heart a thousand times a day as she prayed for each and every one of them. What he thought was a name, Pat, was actually an Irish term of endearment, “Pet.” I hear her now, “Ah Pet,” empathetically, “Go on, Pet,” reassuringly. I can still feel her hand on my head, stroking my hair. I still feel her tiny framed embrace, her soft, healing hands, her loving grey eyes.
She died ten years ago, but her memory is strong. Pictures dot the walls of our home, and our memories keep her alive. My children and I note when we encounter some thing, some experience, some person she had loved. Tiny and mighty, vulnerable and brave, gentle and fierce, she was a perfect mass of contradictions with an immovable moral compass and indomitable spirit. Her legacy is the melody of my existence, imbued with the things she treasured most.
Ah Mom, I wish I could hold you one more time; feel your cheek on my shoulder one more time; breathe in the smell of your hair one more time; tell you how much I love you one more time. Is ceol mo chroí thú.