Pick a number to tell your story, a single measure to summarise your life’s worth. What’s it to be? Height? Weight? How about your salary? For some, that would do it nicely. Most would feel cheapened. How about your personal tally of wives or husbands? Or maybe longevity captures it? Up to a point, perhaps, until someone asks what you did with all those years.
The Tiger That Isn’t (page 88). Blastland & Dilnot, 2008.
If one number could possibly summarise Mary’s life’s worth it would probably be the number of people who attended her funeral. Between two and three thousand people made the time and effort to be at St. Michael’s Church in Portarlington, Co. Laois, on the cold wet workday morning of the 17th June. The wake on the previous day had seen 450 people sign the condolences book at Mary’s home, between 3pm and 11pm. In all likelihood only half those who attended signed the book. The sheer numbers of mourners still do not reflect the depth of feeling that her passing has invoked.
Mary was so popular because she was so full of life and so supportive of others. Many people benefitted from her loving, caring outlook and honest good nature. Vibrant and vivacious, she built and maintained a network of friends, like a glamourous spider weaving a web of mutual support.
I will write more about Mary and I encourage others to leave stories and messages about her below – to ensure that those who are left have the opportunity to know more about their wife, mother, grandmother and friend. For now I will leave you with the eulogy that Melissa read at the funeral.
First of all, the family would like to thank everyone who has shown their support at this difficult time – we couldn’t have managed without you.
In particular we want to thank the staff at Portlaoise and Tullamore Hospitals who cared for mum in her last weeks, the priests of the parish, Maher’s undertakers, the GAA committee for providing support and the venue for after this service, and all those who have travelled a long way at short notice to be here.
The reason you are all here is to mark the passing of mine and Shane’s mum, our dad Andrew’s wife or Mary Broderick nee Higginbotham as she was also known. The number of people who have made the effort to be here is a reflection of the woman we all knew. She was kind, caring and gregarious. The life and soul of the party, a friendly face in the street and a deeply loving person. The glamorous appearance, Bacardi and coke in one hand, cigarette in the other that many of you will remember was just the welcoming exterior of someone with incredible depths of compassion and care.
Myself and Shane saw those depths every day. We were privileged to have Mary as a mother, I cannot imagine anyone offering as much love and concern. Of course, to us this often meant she was a worrier. She worried all the time and she worried about everything. When Shane was a teenager she would follow him in the car to watch that he didn’t get into trouble with his friends (of course she kept an eye on them too), the exact opposite was true when he started playing football – she couldn’t bear to watch him play in case he was hurt.
Since I moved to London she would call me two or three times a day, to check that I was alright, and of course to keep me up to date with what was happening in Port. When dad was doing security at the GAA centre she couldn’t sleep for worry. If she heard about a car accident in the area she would ring everyone to check that they weren’t involved. She cared about everyone and it must have worked since we stand here today without any scars. Well, not physical scars anyway.
Losing mum is a wound that will be a long time healing, not just for myself, Shane and dad, but for her brothers Kitt and John. I’ll say that there are plenty here who will also be left with a deep hurt from Mary’s passing, Caroline not least. I would love to mention everyone who mum counted as a friend, but I know she’d be mad at me for talking all day. Needless to say she will be sorely missed by everyone whose life she touched. And we know that she touched the lives of many of you, because so many of you told us what you thought of her and the impact that she made.
The great shame is that mum died so young. So many more might have benefitted directly from her warmth, support and guidance. Hannah has had just four years of her nanny’s love and support and there is a new grandchild on the way who will grow up in a world made poorer by Mary’s absence. But in some ways mum lives on. She lives on in the people she has helped shape – Shane, myself and plenty of others who she took under her wing.
We love our mum very much and we told her that we loved her every day. Like so many people I will miss her greatly and for the rest of my life, but I take comfort in my mum’s way of thinking and her outlook on life. Mum wasn’t afraid of death – she believed that a body is like a coat that you take off when you get home.
My mum always said to me “dying isn’t hard, it’s living that’s difficult” and mum made living easier for so many people. She will always be loved, she will always be missed, she will always be remembered.