Homily for Sally
[from Seamus Ahearne osa]
The last time Sally came into this Church was on the 2nd November. It was a time to remember our dead and especially the dead of the past year. She was here for Nico and of course for Ned, Frankie, Yvonne and many more. She arrived in here and then took off on a sprint and leaped into my arms. Well would you be surprised by that? She wasn’t fit to be here. But that moment illustrated her life. Nothing ever stopped her when she decided to do something. She had initiative, determination; a get- up- and- go attitude. The next time I met Sally was on Tuesday. Eileen had called Liz and we went into Raphael’s ward (The Mater) to see her. We were so pleased to see her.
Her story of life is writ large in the minds of everyone here. We were dizzy as we listened to her history of travelling. Roscrea, Denmark Street, Ventry Park, Cabra, Blackpool,The Red Lion in the Angel, London, Germany, Birmingham, Catterick, Cabra again, Killester, Kippure, Brookville. And much more. No traveller j(on Dunsink Lane) moved as much as she did. She wasn’t moving about on a jolly. She was working. She was rearing a family. She was making do. She would do anything to make do. It was a tough journey. But our Sally was also tough. She made friends everywhere. And her friends lasted. It was Mary Walker in London. It was Helga in Germany. It was Betty in Kilbarrack. It was all of us here.
How do we remember her? How do we describe her? I have often said here that we are like a collective of artists and painters. We bring together our colours and our moments and our pictures of this woman. The work of art emerges. I am sure that many would think like I do. I cannot get over how any person could have dealt with so much in life and yet emerge with such warmth, heart, love, affection and beauty. I don’t want to decorate a person who has died but I do mean it: She was a beautiful lady and a real lovely, loving saint. She was a gem. We could toss up our stories and our pictures this morning and we wouldn’t ever stop.
Here in the parish, she was our big collector in Kippure. At times she shouldn’t be out but off she went. She gathering the children with her. The pied piper led them around. She had sweets for them. She was a child among them. How can it be strange that the children would call on Sally – to see would she come out to play! She would dress up with them. She would organise a street party. She would get all kinds of goodies for them.
And then there are our special highlights when we saw this woman as she aged; as her body got tired; as her sight began to dim – and yet the music would start and her soul danced. It stirred us all. How could any of us feel down or dull or sad if this woman was so alive?
We can remember too Seán (her brother) and how he was at home with Sally when space was very limited in the house. We can recall too her quiet trips to town meeting up with Frankie (secretly) around Alice Leahy’s place and those times when her heart was breaking. We can recall how she was when Yvonne died. We can recall with a smile when Ned used to get worked up about the parking outside Brookville(near the old Garda station) and the Gardai trying to avoid him.
Sally was born back in 1935. In 1935, here are a few events happening during that year: O Casey’s ‘Silver Tassie’ was put on in the Abbey; St John Gogarty published – ‘As I was going down Sackville Street’; a Gaeltacht was established in Meath; Cider began to be produced by Magner in Clonmel; the Nazis were causing havoc among the Jews in Germany. But above all – young Sally was born and the world was a better place because of her presence everywhere. She lived for 29,875 days.
It is amusing but not amazing that the family picked the reading which Monica read. ‘A perfect wife’ and more. It goes on to describe what this woman was like. And it isn’t plamais or something we say just when a person has died. Sally was that woman.
I picked the Gospel with two questions and an invitation: ‘What do you want. Where do you live. Come and see.’ Sally pointedly asks of us that question. What do you want? At this moment, she puts it up to us: What do we want out of life. Any of us. All of us. She is telling us. I lived my life. I lived it the best way I could. If you believed in me. Learn from me. The second question is: Where do you live? We can look back with laughter and she would wish that from us. We knew where she lived and how she lived. And then the Gospel says: Come and see. We are invited into the heart of her life to look at her artistry in living. This woman loved people. She loved her family. She loved her children. She gave everything away. Her life was a song of love and goodness and faith. We are all better people if we can learn from her. I have to repeat what I said. She was beautiful. She oozed the best of humanity. Catch it from her.
You know Eileen, Jimmy and Sandra – you were blessed in your mother. And you only loaned her to us all and we were blessed too.
She was always giving everything away. She had that vodka bottle for the coins to build up towards Christmas. And then she took the children for a treat. But it wasn’t just coins; it was everything. She was a giver. May what she has given us all show fruit and become obvious so that we too can brighten up the world. We had this song at your house only yesterday (a blast from the past)
“Around The World”
Around the world I’ve searched for you
I traveled on when hope was gone to keep a rendezvous
I knew somewhere, sometime, somehow
You’d look at me and I would see the smile you’re smiling now
It might have been in County Down
Or in New York, in gay Paree, or even London town
No more will I go all around the world
For I have found my world in you. (Frank Sinatra)