It’s early 2022, and I’ve just read that Ireland is set to get a new national holiday starting February 1st, 2023 -- St. Brigid’s Day. It’s about time there’s a female saint celebrated on an annual grand scale over there, I think and wonder if I had a small hand in building momentum for the nascent holy holiday with my eulogy for my mom in 2016.


For some reason, I focused my part of the eulogy entirely on my mother’s mother, Brigid McCabe.


My mom adored her “mammy,” as she called her. She thought she was a saint – not the original one, of course, but a saint, nonetheless. Mom often spoke about her early life growing up in Bally Bay. About how happy she was; how kind her mammy was despite so much hardship; and how generous she was to them.


Whenever she could scrape together a few extra shillings, Brigid gave them to my mom, Anne, and her siblings to buy sweets or better yet, go to a film. Mom told us how Brigid, her mammy, laughed when they returned home to tell her about their first visit to the new movie house in town. Mom said they didn’t know the seats folded down, so they all four balanced themselves atop the closed seats. They sat like that until another movie goer shouted, “Will someone tell those eejit McCabe children to open their seats and sit in them proper like.”


It was all true. And my mother did love her mother dearly. But why I choose to focus so exclusively on Brigid, I don’t know. I should have had so many stories to share about my also much-loved mom. For example, that she could beat all five of us at a footrace. That she would even regularly challenge us to footraces! That she never said a bad word about anyone; anyone except my dad, of course, but he deserved it. No instead, I drew a picture of her happy childhood with her mammy, Brigid, growing up in the South of Ireland.


I did meet my grandmother, Brigid. Only twice, but I can attest to her being funny, warm and easy going. Nana, as we called her, visited us once in Hamilton in the late ’70s, when me and my four siblings were all teens and tweens. While she was here, she had congestive heart failure.


The doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital asked why she hadn’t refilled her prescription before coming. She said, “Sure you shoulda seen the dreadful day me tablets ran out. Ya would nay put a dog out in it.” So, she came to Canada without her meds and almost died here because of inclement weather in Ireland. In Ireland!


Anyway, it’s just sitting here thinking about St. Brigid’s Day I realize my eulogy should have been more about my mom. Not hers.


Thank goodness my sister shored up the second half of the eulogy. She had the presence of mind to acknowledge all mom’s friends and her Catholic Women’s League community for being there. She talked about how much she had learned personally from our mom’s dedication to her friends, family and community. Whew, thank goodness for her.


With our tag-team eulogy completed, my sister and I asked if any of the 200 or so guests would like to share a remembrance or story about mom. In retrospect, this wasn’t a good idea, either. Generally, people don’t like public speaking and usually those that do shouldn’t. I’ve seen at least two funerals go totally off the rails in this latter scenario.


So, there we stood in uncomfortable silence on the church basement stage. Nothing.


Nothing until one brave friend from mom’s early nursing days, took to the stage. She told a noticeably short story about when they used to work together on the pediatric ward at Chedoke Hospital. She said, “On our breaks, we’d sit in the kids’ tiny chairs, at their tiny table, and eat banana sandwiches.” That was it. Not riveting exactly, but I was grateful to her for at least trying to break the ice.


Then, more uncomfortable silence.


Accepting the situation, we smiled and made ready to descend the stage. I have to say I was disappointed. Truly disappointed: No humorous anecdotes, fond recollections, warm memories. Nothing.


It was then that Melissa Mary Sanderson approached the front of the stage and said, “I’d like to say a few words.”


I hadn’t seen Melissa Mary Sanderson for about 40 years. She was our scrappy, elfin neighbour from so long ago. She was the only child of a single, working mother who’d befriended my mother, and then Melissa Mary Sanderson was always at our house. She was there before school, after school and often for dinner. She didn’t go to the same school, though. Instead, she was bused to a school for kids with learning differences. Her difference, which was diagnosed too many years later, was dyslexia.


She climbed the worn, wooden stage stairs and walked to the mic.


There’s so much I remember about Mrs. Greene – your mom,” she said. “So much. First, she gave me my first cup of tea. I was only like seven and I got to drink tea – all the time! Then I remember eating porridge. Lots of porridge in the mornings. If it wasn’t porridge, it was that big chunk of cereal. What was it called? Weetabits or something like that, I think? It looked like a block of dry straw, until you added the milk and sugar. Then it was a bowl of soft, mushy breakfast ecstasy. Anne, your mom, was always there to greet me with a smile when I got back from school. She made me feel welcome, safe. She always had a slice of pie or cake – or a thick slice of warm soda bread smothered in butter and dripping with honey waiting for me, along with a big mug of strong tea, of course.  Sometimes, I got to stay for dinner, too. I’d have to squeeze in between all you other big Greenes at that small, round table. I still don’t know how we all fit. But I knew whatever was for dinner would be good, and if I could only learn to eat as fast as you Greene kids, I’d have a shot at seconds.


I loved your mom,” Melissa Mary Sanderson said. “I think she was a saint.”



Carol Greene

Carol writes short creative non-fiction, fiction and memoir. She received the Short Works Prize, Hamilton Arts & Letters Award, for Creative Non-Fiction in 2020. She presented two short personal essays at The 6-Minute Memoir, which is a ticketed reading event in Hamilton, ON: “Love Lost” in February 2017, and “A Pepe Christmas” in December 2016.

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