Sunday, March 15, 2015

On Mothering

One of the major grieving moments for me after being diagnosed with cancer eight year's ago was the realisation that there are going to be major life moments in my kids' lives that I am going to miss should the worst happen. 

Cathal was only two when I was diagnosed and Emma was nine. I know some women who were diagnosed at the same time I was who are sadly no longer here. I think about them and their kids on a day like today. 

One of these beautiful women was recording bed time stories in her own voice so her kids would always have her voice when it was time for a bedtime story ....

It's heartbreaking to think of her having to leave her kids and to think of her kids without their Mum. 

I count myself so lucky to still be here with a 10 year old who is turning into the most handsome, confident and articulate young boy. I am so lucky too that I am getting to watch Emma blossom into the most extraordinary young woman - a gifted word smith and more beautiful inside and out than she will ever know. 

On a day like today I don't care about presents or cards .... None of that Hallmark stuff is important. 

I know that whatever happens in the future with my cancer that my kids are going to be fine .... I know they will treasure the memories we have made and the mischief we have managed. 

But in saying that, I have no intention of going anywhere anytime soon because there are lots more things I want to be here for .... Graduation days, young love, college days, travels, the publication of Emma's first novel, Cathal as Taoiseach etc 

I want to be here for all if it but .... 
I am happy to have gotten this far ... 

Everything has been beautiful and while I will never be okay with closing my eyes on it forever, I will take and savour whatever time I am given as a Mum.

Happy Mother's Day to all mums especially those battling cancer 


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Flesh and Blood Campaign encourages blood and organ donation

As someone who has received both blood and platelet transfusions as part of my treatment for cancer, I am delighted to see the Churches in Ireland engaging on such an important issue as blood and organ donation. 

Flesh and Blood Campaign  

Archbishop Richard Clarke and Archbishop Eamon Martin in front of a gift-wrapped cathedral in Armagh for the launch of the Flesh and Blood initiative

The all-Ireland campaign marks the first cross border partnership between churches and health services and it is designed to encourage church congregations and parishes to see blood and organ donation as a part of their giving. It also seeks to equip people as advocates for blood and organ donation, enabling them to raise awareness of the need for donors with their family, friends and community, potentially helping to save thousands of lives each year.
Archbishop Martin said, “The challenge of the ‘fleshandblood’ campaign – to see blood and organ donation as a part of our giving within the Church – is one I encourage us all to consider; that we might mirror God’s perfect gift to us in His Son by giving the gift of life ourselves.”
At the end of Friday’s launch, Archbishop Martin prayed for those involved in the campaign, and lit a candle in memory of all those who have given blood and organs down the years. He prayed for one of his own colleagues who has just become a live donor for his (the donor’s) brother.
The Armagh and Dublin events follow the joint 2014 Christmas Day message by the Archbishops of Armagh, which was broadcast on RTÉ television and radio, wherein they expressed their commitment to raising awareness of donation, and during which they met with blood donors and people whose lives have been transformed by organ donation.
If you have never given blood, please go to a clinic to see if you are eligible to do so. I had about 14 blood and platelet transfusions and in one six-month period in 2007 while being treated for myeloma.
If you don't carry an organ donor card - then please consider picking one up. 
Follow the conversation on Twitter @fleshandblood and on @catholicbishops.
Thanks for dropping by.

Monday, March 9, 2015

An ode to the single most relevant type of human being on the planet - the mother

This is a poem by Seamus Heaney called "While all the others were away at Mass". My 17 year old daughter Emma voted for it recently in the Poem for Ireland initiative. It's a breathtakingly beautiful poem. Have a read of it. It's very appropriate as we get near to Mother's Day. When you have read it, please have a read of the reflection on it written by my daughter - it too is breath taking and full of courage. 

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives–
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

Emma's thoughts on the poem 

I had to wrench tears from my eyes as I read Heaney's bereaved stanzas, ironed out in unrepressed wistful sadness. It is a very real fear, losing one's mother and it prevails even before we have grasped what death is, in the clutch of that desperate desire for intimacy that Heaney so artfully elicits. I recall grasping at the fogginess of youth for those crystallised memories, incidents, anecdotes, monumental moments to cradle for comfort if she lost that hospital bed-bound battle and left me with a two year old to convince of her existence, once upon a time.

For as much as we might quarrel with them, cast disgruntled glances, warning shots at them across a room (in the naval battle of making tea); a mother is something precious.

For me, Heaney’s poem captured that often unstated tenderness amid the tumult of growing; the moment of mutual affection that manifests in trading a tube of Pringles, munching over dialogue, being taught the inner workings of an avocado, debating the prudence of bananas in a smoothie.

This poem spoke to me because I carry that fear of losing my mother constantly - every blip on her health radar, every hospital stay, every infection……. There’s an intimate familiarity that accompanies the word cancer, and to all the furious tears I have streaked into hoodies.

I love baking with my mother, even though she’s an utter, unabashed dictator when it comes to the precise operation of an electric whisk, because I think that I will remember those burned cookies, that delicious chocolate fudge, the joy she’d take in smashing pistachios with a rolling pin forever.

Mothers are mythical creatures, with the wisdom of Athena, the beauty of Apollo, holding the endless ire of Zeus in reserve for matters as varied as:

·         other people who dare to use the road in a less than pristine fashion,

·         lightbulbs,

·         the grubby inside of the oven,

·         carol singers,

·         bananas,

·         invading hoards of eight-legged hell hounds (also known as spiders),

·         and, most vehemently, anyone who attempts to harm the insolent beings she expended hours ushering from her womb.

For me, “While the others were away at Mass” is a worthy champion of Irish poetry, and an ode to the single most relevant type of human being on the planet – the mother!
End of Emma's thoughts
Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful Mum's out there, especially those who are battling serious illness. I hope that if you have a daughter, that you are as lucky as I am .........
Brenda xxxx