Bessie. It is often said that there are fewer things in life more beautiful than a bright October sun that shines on freshly fallen leaves.
In life nothing can match the beauty of someone reaching the Autumn of their years, a life blessed by the warmth of many summer suns.
And so it was for our mother as we laid her to rest, the October sun shone at its brightest, its beauty embraced and enriched us all.
Her Autumn had finally come.
Our family have been overwhelmed by the many, many people who in a variety of ways came together as one to acknowledge a life well lived and to share their memories of her with us.
In our lives, in our family she was at its heart.
She was the most caring, compassionate, generous and loving mother, possible.
She taught us from the earliest age that generosity is not always of the material world, it is more often of spirit, thought and most importantly of deed and action.
It was uplifting the number of people, family, friends, old neighbours from Orchard Row and strangers who in paying their respects recounted how her generosity of whatever kind played out in their lives.
At her urging no one was to know of it.
This reflects of her humility and that for her kindness is never boastful.
Our mother never ever forgot the kindness of the Conaghan family as our father, Liam and her with their infant son, Jimmy moved into 37 Orchard Row in 1949 to set up home, the home that would be ours for the next 29 years.
Their example became hers to follow.
Our mother had the deepest of convictions, quietly lived out but with a firmness of tempered steel.
She was an Irish Republican, who believed in the unity of our land and its people.
Her resolve allowed her to face the many challenges that political struggle presents.
She faced each of them with the courage and fortitude required at the hour of need, regardless of personal pain or hardship.
That came from her father, James who throughout his life served with a calm but assured presence.
Her family was everything to her and her love and devotion to our father was enjoyed over seven decades of marriage.
She believed that the definition of family stretched to where it had to be in times of comfort or stress.
Equally proud of us all, no difference made and we wanted for little.
For her it was, do what you can in the best way possible and know that nothing more could be done.
On Thursday, October 11 at 3.15 a.m. in the peace and quiet of morning, we said goodbye to her mortal and earthly guidance, but we know that she will be there to guide us wherever we find ourselves in the days ahead.
She passed away on the 49th anniversary of her father’s death.
From that moment we had the benefit of remarkable friendship and empathy from those who called at Andrew’s home for the wake, those who met her at the Shantallow Monument, her requiem mass, her funeral and interment in the City cemetery.
It is truly inspiring the love, fraternity, comradeship accorded to our father Liam, his sons and daughters throughout. It is something we will cherish forever, and a debt of gratitude that is impossible to repay.
As sons and daughters we are proud of our father who after those 70 years of unremitting loyalty has lost his soul mate but remains a tower of strength for us.
To our teaghlach, our spouses, Bridie, Winnie, Eileen, Lorraine, Rose, Mickey and Paula, to all our children, their children and their children you made granny's world and her whole being, one filled with joy by the sound of your laughter. She was at her happiest in all our company and proud of us all, as one. Her family.
As brothers we stand in awe of our two sisters Helen and Elizabeth for their care and love in that most special way for these past 12 months.
To the McCartney/Gallagher family circle, to Aunt Margaret, our cousins of every generation you will know that Aunt Bessie would have wanted you at our sides and you were, as you were at hers.
In times such as this, families discover that they are people who by their deeds are an example to us all, we now have Padraigín and Colm forever closer to us.
To the carers who were at her bedside this past year, no words will ever describe what you mean to us. You have defined care, attention, devotion to us as an appreciative family. Our mother came to see you as part of her family.
We also thank Doctor Devlin, all the doctors, nurses and medical staff who attended to our mother and to Mary Duffy for always being there.
To our friends and comrades in the Republican Movement for all their assistance and support during the wake, with a special word of thanks to Sean, ár gcuid buíochas.
From attending the wake house, particularly those who travelled in from across Ireland, and assisting those to get to the wake house despite the awful weather.
The attention to detail at the funeral procession was exemplary, giving her the great privilege of being carried, replete with the National flag and Honour Guard from her beloved Long Tower Chapel to her final place of rest in the City cemetery.
Our mother would have a special smile to see such generosity of spirit being bestowed upon her.
Our deep gratitude to Fr Chris Ferguson for his poignant eulogy, and how he reflected the bond between our mother’s faith, beliefs and her very being, how they drew strength, each from the other and as one.
To Willie O’Brien, Undertaker for his professionalism.
Sarah’s singing and musical accompaniment was very moving and close to the heart of our mother’s faith.
Bessie would have been greatly pleased that the oration was delivered in such a heartfelt manner by another woman of undoubted strength, Martina.
All of this, like a collection of coloured threads which weave together to form the joyous tapestry that was her life.
Ten years ago, as another October sun shone, Gerry Adams in his desire to articulate the great esteem a mother has in an Irish household drew upon the old Celtic word, Cranntaca.
It conjures up the image of a tall tree.
Its strength resisting all that nature’s forces could cast against it.
Unbowed and unbroken, it survives to become a place of shelter and of solace and wisdom in calmer times.
Our mother’s affinity to St Columba, the Long Tower, Darach – the place of the Oak. For us, she is our mighty oak.
During the wake, a woman who became one of her dear friends in Donal Casey Court said of her that she knew no other person who, in a single word, could tell you what she wanted you to know.
How true. Now, most fitting.
For in life, the autumn light does fade, yet the glorious colour of summer remains vivid, as we await the harshness of winter, ever mindful that Spring will come again.
That is how we will remember our mother.
She may be absent in our lives, but she is within us in all that we do, forever.
She would never, even in a single word, speak of herself, such was her humility.
That is our task.
So from your life’s teaching to us, and as we say our thanks, our appreciation, and our undying love for you, mum, this is our single word for you.
Bí suaimhneas ort-sa