I am currently organising an event for my mother – or I should say in memory of my mother. Next year it will be fifty years since she died and I believe that it is important to mark that. It seems to me that the best way to do that is to gather her family, back on the sacred ground where she grew up. So, at the end of June we will have a Mass in the local parish which she walked to regularly with her sisters, brother and parents. There will be music at that Mass, not because my mother came from a family that was musical but because I believe we need to celebrate my mother’s life and so we need good liturgy. This is not a sombre anniversary Mass but as I’ve said, a celebration of life, my mother and all those others within this extended family who have made us who we are.
Word has gone out to the cousins. Plenty of notice has been given so that holiday plans could perhaps wait a few days. Aunts and uncles have been informed, particularly my uncle Joe who lives in the home place and has agreed to have a marquee set up in his garden to accommodate the forty or fifty people we expect. There will be some food from a local caterer but really it will be a little like the Gospel story of the loaves and fishes. The cousins will be asked to bring something to share – a salad here, a dessert there – so that ultimately all will be well fed.
I can think of no better way to remember my mother than this gathering. My mother was a quiet woman but I think she would delight in the chat and the craic, the cousins catching up, her own siblings in the midst of it, the next generation probably chasing each other – and the dog – round the tables. It is also about the sense of place. Kiltobranks is a sacred place for me because it is where our roots are. It was where the cousins met up in the summer – coming from the corners of Ireland. It is where relationships were forged that have lasted down the years.
For me there was also something special about Kiltobranks and Roscommon in the seventies – it was a safe place. We were coming from Strabane in the early years of the Troubles. I remember being mesmerised that in Kiltobranks we could be out late at night, in the dark. We could go into town and not be worried. At the time there was an increasing military presence in Strabane, with barriers manned by soldiers performing security checks before they would let a car into the middle of the town for fear it was another car bomb. So even though as a young child I wouldn’t have had the words to express it, Kiltobranks was an oasis of peace.
It was also the place where my beloved Granny lived. Being my mother’s mother, my Granny held a very special place in my heart and when I was with her, I felt closer to my mother and that wee bit less lonely. My Granny also influenced my growing faith in a quiet but profound way. God was such a clear and obvious reality to her and consequently to me.
At that Mass in Lisacul we will gather, strengthening and rebuilding relationships, we will listen to the Word of God, we will meet around one table to be nourished by the bread of life. From there we will go to a marquee in my Uncle Joe’s garden and there those same vital elements of liturgy will be echoed – we will gather, reconnect, listen, share and remember.