Eulogy for my Mum


We buried my Mum yesterday
Christina Mary Kearns (née Foy)
born Dublin 26 October 1931
died Luton 20 February 2016

Goodbye Mum,
having put it there,
you take with you
some of the best
of each of us.

Like Dad,
you were raised
first in the tenements of north Dublin.
born at home,
at 16 Upper Gloucester street,
to Mary and Jack Foy,
in a house demolished when
your family was moved about
a mile up the road,
‘into the country,’ as you told me,
and a corporation house
on Carnlough Road,
and the luxury of your own front door,
your own garden where,
during the War,
the Emergency,
your father grew vegetables
to feed a growing family.

Like Dad,
you had seen poverty
as a child,
and you and Kevin based your family
on a prudent economy, where,
as you told Kevin,
the children would always come first,
and Kevin,
also cherishing your children delicately,
and handing to you each week, with respect,
an unopened pay packet,
helped you gift your children,
and then also your grand-children,
and then also your great-grand-children,
the confidence of unqualified love.

Well Mum, Chris,
you, too, had the confidence that
comes from love without stint
after you married Dad,
the man of whom you told us with pride
that people, like once a bus conductor,
and another time a neighbor,
would remark to you:
‘That man loves you, he does.’
And, he does.

So Mum,
leaning on each other,
in a strangers’ land,
you and Dad, Kevin,
raised a family in England.
Homesick, certainly,
but grateful for the civility of
a National Health Service
for your family,
and free education for your children,
even University,
for your sons;
an opportunity that you yourself, Mum, Chris,
would certainly have relished,
with your cultural enthusiasms,
Tchaikovsky and Chopin,
and the appetite for learning,
that saw you defy your father
and insist that being a young woman
should not close to you the chance
of education
beyond the years of compulsory schooling.
And from those days, Mum, Chris
you kept a heavily thumbed book on domestic science
yhat grounded your
always analytical approach to baking
producing in turn, our own greedy appreciation of your craft.

And Mum, Chris, while you
expected a lot of those you loved
you only ever asked that they do their best,
and whereas you urged all
to careful thought and patient reading,
you, yourself, Mum, Chris,
were humble in the face of all that was unknown to you,
and I suspect you believed, unknown
even to those with more leisure for learning
than you had been allowed.
For, all who knew you at all well
knew of your devotion to the
mysteries of your Catholic faith
and your particular veneration
of the Virgin Mary and, indeed,
the family Bible,
given to you by your sister Theresa,
contains only two bookmarks,
both dating from the day of your marriage:
one is a blessing from a friend, a nun,
and the other is
a prayer card of
the Legion of Mary.

So, Mum, Chris,
I know that
by your own lights
you can only have had pride
in a life lived
in faith, and in love,
in comity, and in good cheer
for you are ever
quick to take the opportunity for a joke,
mindful of every good fortune;
a lady for whom the teapot
that watered conversation
was always warm.

So, Mum, Chris,
I think of your ambition,
your loyalty,
your knowing laughter
and open smile,
but mostly of
your example–
of neighbourliness,
of married love,
and of tender parenting–
and I hope that,
while much that is best
about all of us
surely needed you to sow its seed,
the very thought of you
will nourish it yet,
and I hope that we can say goodbye
and know that we always
bear some witness
to your cherished memory.
Suaimhneas síoraí dá hanam.
Rest in peace, Chris, Mum.