Last night, we went to Cora’s ‘removal’ – something that doesn’t exist in Germany. Pádraig ‘told’ us that he wanted to go. It’s when the body of a person is brought from where it was (home, hospital) to the church. There was a short service and we met a lot of old friends, among them Cora’s husband Peter. To Cora and Peter, Pádraig had been like a son. For many years, Cora had minded Pádraig (he was Patrick then; he hadn’t changed his name yet:), like her own son. Even when Patrick had become Pádraig, all grown up, she came over to our house, especially Christmas. Every year, Santa got into real trouble because he had such a hard time matching Cora’s generosity.
This morning, I walked with Pádraig to Cora’s requiem mass. Again, he had ‘told’ us that he wanted to go. And it was so good that we went. Both the priest in his homily and a family friend who talked about Cora’s life with Peter mentioned Pádraig and the role he played in their lives a number of times. This was not child minding. This was family and love. They were so happy that Pádraig had come to Cora’s funeral mass.
The church all these services took place in is known locally as the ‘wigwam’. It’s the church Pat and I got married in. It’s the church that Pat’s mother had gone to the evening of the big storm that blew her over when she was leaving the church after mass – a blow she never recovered from. It’s part of our life and family ‘history’.
The removal last night and the mass this morning made me stop in my tracks. It stripped my life, our life, down to its essence. While I probably have my own ‘version’ of faith, I always recognise it in the readings and, often, in sermons and teachings.
At the centre of it all is love. It’s that simple.
Whatever worries we have, whatever seems to be important to us, whatever decisions worry us, whatever possessions make us tick, whatever mess we think dominates our life — none of that really matters. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people we love. Nothing else.
Cora gave me a glimpse of what that love means, how this love affects those who are loved.
Tomas Ó Criomhthain ended An t-Oileánach (The Islandman), his book about the wild Blasket Islands out off the west coast of Ireland and his last inhabitants, by saying:
I have written minutely of much that we did, for it was my wish that somewhere there should be a memorial of it all, and I have done my best to set down the character of the people about me so that some record of us might live after us, for the like of us will never be again.
The like of Cora will never be again.
But the world keeps turning and there are many young people with such big hearts and such an amount of energy, commitment, and love that there is no reason to worry about our future. It’ll just be different.