It seemed really odd to me a few years ago to think of publishing this Eulogy on my blog, but I’ve had a few people ask about it since, and on the anniversary of her passing two years ago, I’m thinking it’s time. Mum slipped away so slowly over the years preceding her death that the grief process has been slow and long. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I think it has softened the sharper edges of the grief for me, and it made her passing something that set her free rather than took her from us. As the years pass I’m seeing that she was a master at loving people. She’s in how I love. Every day. Always will be.
“Firstly the family would like to thank everybody for coming here today. No doubt, wherever Mom is, she’s hopping mad that she is missing such a great gathering.
Mum lived a very full life and was born in Waterford on May 6th, 1932 to Alice and Michael O’ Connell. She was the second youngest of ten children and grew up on Scotch Quay in Waterford city in what was, by all accounts, a happy and busy household. Mom told lots of stories about her childhood when we were growing up: from Sunday boat trips on the river Suir with her father, to her sister Maureen not being in school because she was tied to a tree in the People’s Park.
Mum left school at seventeen, did a secretarial course and was soon running the accounts department of Hearn’s department store in Waterford. She loved her job but after meeting our father, Billy and getting married, she gave up work. Their shared sense of fun and the outdoors led them to embark on a daring honeymoon adventure on a small motorbike to Mom’s brother Jimmy in Donegal.
After marriage they lived in Waterford for about a year and moved to Dublin in 1959. They fell in love with south Dublin and were delighted to be able to buy the house in Bellevue Avenue. Mom set about her new life in Glenageary with great enthusiasm. Being the independent woman she was, she bought a grey Mini and learned to drive – that mini was to transport us for many magical picnics at the beach and trips to the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, where the drop down boot was used as a picnic table in all weathers! Mum was an avid crafter and loved to knit and sew as well as spending long evenings gardening. Her talent even extended to making Deirdre’s wedding dress and bridesmaid dress and I remember her being up late into the night getting everything perfect for the big day.
Whilst she loved her new life in Dublin, she still kept strong links with her family and the south. She spent a large amount of her time writing letters to them as well as many family trips to visit everyone on a regular basis.
As we grew up, Mom never showed favouritism to any of us and wholeheartedly understood each of us as individuals. She always made time to listen to our troubles and, as others can attest, to listen to people in the broader family as well as friends and neighbours. I’m sure many of you have fond memories of sitting around the kitchen table in Bellevue with Mum providing scrumptious meals, warm cuppas and a sympathetic ear and shoulder. She provided support, but not so you’d notice and had an uncanny way of making everything seem better.
Her true spirit and sense of character shone when she faced surgery for a brain tumour in 1977 and for a second tumour a year later. Her surgeon considered her something of a miracle for the way she came through the surgery. The thought that she might not be there for her children terrified her and I think we all believe that this is what brought her home to us too. I remember the day Mum came home from her first brain surgery vividly. I’d just come home from school and Deirdre – who had at a young age very competently stepped into the role of caregiver for the rest – told me to go see the surprise in the sitting room. There was Mum –head shorn, bruised, forehead stitched back to together and sitting by the fire in the back room. I’ve never been so pleased to see anyone in my life and will always remember her that day as the most beautiful person I’d ever seen.
The strength and bravery she showed in those years served her well as she faced in to various surgeries in subsequent years. In addition she faced in to 25 years caring for Dad as he went through numerous heart attacks, bypass surgery and a heart transplant.
The arrival of grandchildren through those 25 years helped to lift the spirits of both Mum and Dad. They always gave freely of their time and home and thoroughly embraced the joys of being grandparents. Mum kept a fine secret stash of pom bears and treats for everyone. I know some of the grand kids will also recall mum hitching up her skirt to slide down the bannisters at home just for fun. She loved to laugh and poke fun – particularly at Dad when she saw the chance to get under his skin – a pastime best recognised by the Peggy titter!
Mum realised the dream of a lifetime when she went on holiday to Ithaca in 2008 with Conor, Sian and Gabrielle. One day, when Conor and mum were sitting having a cool drink by the harbour side and the girls were having fun and giggles fishing from the little jetty just beside them , Conor started to thank Mum for the huge amount of love and support she had given them in the difficult years that they had just been through. Mum smiled and said , our kids “ are “ love , once you understand that you don’t need anything else to have a happy life.” Classic Mum.
After Dad passed away in 2010, Mom worked hard to maintain her independence. She was challenged by ill health and the onset of dementia. Despite everything, she maintained her sense of humour and strength of character, living up to her own motto of making the most of life and continuing to let her love, devilment and life still shine.
In the last couple of years she started to sing again – in English, in Irish and in Latin. Right up to the end she was singing a few lines of the Jug of Punch and other songs that had a bit of divilment in them. Of late, even into her final days awake, when asked how she was feeling, Mum would wryly reply, “with my hands”.
In her last few weeks we were truly amazed at her bravery and steely calm. If each of us could carry even a few of Peggy’s traits we know we would be doing her proud.
Over the last number of years many people have cared for Mom and her medical needs – her GP, the staff at St Michaels, St Vincent’s and of course the staff at Beechfield Manor nursing home. Beechfield has been a home from home for Mom and for all of us in the family and we believe Mum to have been very happy, comfortable and cherished there. To see the genuine love and fondness the staff had for Mum has been hugely comforting for us all and goes above and beyond the call of duty. A special thanks to Blackrock Hospice for the very careful consideration they gave to mom in her final weeks and days too.
In summary, Mum was a tiny powerhouse of unconditional fun, love, support and determination. She loved her life no matter what it brought her. Family meant everything to her and we grew up knowing it every single day. She lives on in us all, but leaves us much to miss. Godspeed little woman!”