A Eulogy For My Mum
Pauline Whyte – Mum – RIP
Recently I watched our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny stand at the top of a crowded church and indeed in front of a live TV audience and deliver a eulogy for his mother Eithne who passed away at the age of 93. He talked about her both individually and as a woman of a certain generation. A generation that saw two world wars, the Irish war of independence, the birth of the automobile and the aeroplane, the internet and the iphone. He spoke of her as an individual that both loved and was involved in her local community and of her devotion to politics. I knew it was morbid at the time, but as I listened, I wondered what someone would say at my mums funeral?
You see, whilst we all experience such huge technological change on an almost daily basis now, it’s actually normal and nothing you’d speak of. So you wouldn’t mention anything special about this of my mums generation. In fact the only thing you could say of her generation, is that my mum has been taken from us too soon and her generation has years, if not hopefully decades still to live, still to experience more change.
So what of my mum as a person? What defines her? What sums up my mums life?
In the early years, my mum was involved in Scouting, acting first as a Beaver leader to 160th Ardlea scouts and soon after as a scouting widow to my dad. But scouting didn’t define her.
My mum was never really involved in the community, nor ever really involved in charitable organisations, nor sporting clubs – although she did flirt briefly with golf, most likely in an attempt to spend more time with my dad, rather than becoming a golfing widow too.
My mum had many different jobs as we grew up, from working in admin in RTE, to working in a chipper, in a shipping company to her recent work as a care assistant in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital here in Drogheda. The staff there, as well as having taken amazing care of her over these last few months, have also gone to great pains to let us, her family, know what a wonderful woman she was. Whilst these thoughts and sentiments are deeply appreciated, I still wouldn’t say that it was her job here that defined her.
So what does define who my mum was?
It’s only when you ask yourself this question over and over, that you stumble upon the answer.. which is so obvious.
What defined my mum is just that… being a mum.
She lived, breathed, ate and drank her family, but in particular her children and in recent years her grand children. She singularly devoted her entire life to us; everything she did, she did for us as my mum. It is us, her children, that brought her purpose, joy and indeed sorrow.
Life as a mum started out hard for her. I know it’s considered rude to mention a womans age, but a little over 40 years ago my mum and dad had their first child, Barbra. Not being married at the time and given the social conditions, they made, what must have been the hardest decision in their lives up to then, to give Barbra up for adoption. Whilst I never actually spoke to my mum about it, I know that she would only ever have done that in the knowledge that Barbra would go on to be loved by another family that would love her as much as my mum would and thankfully this proved true.
Following on from Barbra came a wedding and the birth of their first son Niall (although having done the maths, I’m not necessarily convinced that this is the precise order of events). Less than twelve months after Niall, their eldest son, came Claire followed less than twelve months again by me. They were getting good at it! Brian was the son that came next and as much as we all know my mum loved us, she had a special love and a special bond with Brian. A few years after Brian came Niamh, the youngest of the family and then an amazing event 17 years ago, where Barbra, reached out as a young woman and found mum and dad again, as well as finding 5 other siblings. Bet that was a shock! I know it was for me!
As I’m sure you all know, Brian was born with some health problems, both mental and physical, and these problems followed him through his whole life. He spent most of his early years in hospital for one problem or another. Even when he wasn’t in hospital full time, his life was plagued with regular visits and in his latter years, he was resident in Peamount Hospital. But there was one constant through his whole life and that was my mum.
She was always by his bedside. Always fighting for him, asking for better care, better doctors, better medicines, better hospitals.. she always wanted the best possible care for him. In the scary times (and there were a few), she was always there, laying vigil at this bedside, asking God for more time, to help him pull through. And he nearly always did.
I think with hindsight, if we really look, we could all possibly have seen that my mums health was not the best. But when Brian died last September, 15 months and 1 day to the day my mum died, a little light went out inside her. Brians passing took away a lot of my mums will to live. As much as she loved us, the rest of her family, Brian was her special son, the one she devoted her life to fighting for and now that that fight was over, she was broken.
Since then, my mums health has slowly declined, with a diagnosis of Lung Cancer back in July finally giving a name to her sorrow. She took all that experience of fighting for Brian and turned it on again, but this time for herself. Sadly though, the disease had gripped her and we all knew, even though none of us may never had said, that time was against us.
I’m so proud of my mum, for what she gave us and how she cared after Brian. She’s never said it (but that’s the Whytes for you), but I’m sure she’s so proud of us all. Certainly in her house, it’s adorned with pictures of her family, the degrees in nursing that Niamh has – she was a proud mum.
Even though we knew mum’s time was limited, and even though we had some very serious scares over the last few months, none of us expected the sudden turn of events. Everyone, including my mum, were making plans for Christmas and for the near future. How she died and how sudden she was taken from us is a shock to us all. But it’s so important, not to dwell on this, but to remember how she was and what she gave us all.
And it is with this in mind that my dad and the family would like to invite everyone back to the Darndale Hilton (excuse me Northern Cross Hilton) for some drinks and light refreshments so that we can do her proud once more and send her off… my mum.