Monday, February 18, 2008

There is Always Another Day!

Today I'm celebrating my grandmother's birthday. Her name was Nellie Farrell Daly. We all called her Nin, a nickname her first grandson, my oldest brother gave her. Nin turned 124 years old today! Amazing to imagine. I thought she was old when I was a kid. She's a lot older now. I figure, with the way we always celebrated her birthday while she was here with us on Earth, there's a hooley in heaven tonight! All of her children, and many of her grandchildren are with her, so I know they are celebrating her life and the gift she was and is to us, eternally.

I used to think I would have her forever. What kid imagines losing a parent or grandparent, or sibling for that matter, until it finally happens? I've lost them all by now. My siblings died young (from my perspective anyway), in their 50's, and suddenly. My parents lived long lives. But my grandmother? She was born on February 17, 1884 and was buried on February 17, 1976. A sad way to celebrate that particular birthday it was. She was 92 that day, but had no cake, no candles. Only copious tears from all of us who loved her so much. I still miss her. She was like a second mom to me and taught me all about my heritage. She gave me Ireland. She gave me a great gift!

It took me a few years before I could go to her grave. The first time I went was on my wedding day in 1980, to introduce her to my soon-to-be husband, and I guess ask her blessing. I was, after all, marrying a priest. I knew she blessed us. I knew it. Wasn't she the grandmother who wept when I entered the convent? Who went into mourning? Wasn't she the grandmother who struggled to her feet, on the day I left the convent, to grab my hands and dance a jig with me, joyful to have me home? Holiness, my father would say, was found in the family. She agreed! Nin did not want me to live in a convent. Of course she gave us her blessing! I married my husband knowing I had it, hers and my parents' blessings.

Some think life ends with death. That there are no more days after that last breath. I do not believe that. I believe, with the Church, that death means life is changed, not ended. And so I believe that although I cannot see or hear the party tonight, I know it is going on, and will continue. Life is changed, not ended. At the end of the day...there is always another day. God is Love, and Love doesn't come to an end. We were created by that Love, and it is that Love that quickens us here, and leads us into our eternal life.

Happy Birthday, Nin! Thank you for sharing your life and love with me. I love you forever.

Your Cait

"The Memory of You"

My heart warms within me when I think of the days
that we had together; how I loved all your ways
Your faith and your love of God each day you shared
and with tender affection you showed me you cared.
You taught me to sing and to laugh and to cry
and to always be happy and to reach for the sky.
Your songs and your stories we knew were all true
and they'll live forever in the memory of you.

But your death, though expected, broke promises made:
that we'd go together and stand in the shade
of the Blood Red Rose Tree and O'Donnell Aboo.
Now these heroes of old are all standing with you.
And I envy those who are close by your side
but your presence is dear to me though you have died.
For our dreams, joys and plans for the things that we'd do
continue forever in the memory of you.

There were days in my childhood when I cried bitter tears
as I learned Ireland's history and her scars through the years.
Then we'd bind up those wounds with a song and a smile;
you nourished me with love - but just for a while.
As the years flew and we knew - closer we became -
for Jesus was coming to call you by name.
And our hearts weaved together as you time was due
and I'll live forever with the memory of you.

Now I stand by your grave and I fall to my knees
and I pray to our God and I beg Him: "Lord please
keep my mind on the thought of her being with You,
and not here below me but living anew.
O Lord strengthen the joy that she gave to me,
keep Irish eyes, smiling as she'd have it be."
I give thanks for those happy years, many - yet few,
and I live, Grandmother, with the memory of you.
My heart filled forever with the memory of you.

copyright 1976 Cait Finnegan


"I've Not Forgotten You"

It's not that I've forgotten you
or put you from my mind.
It's not that I neglect to pray
or think from time to time.
Remembering the times we shared
and all the love we knew,
I sit at times alone in tears,
I've not forgotten you.

But life goes on (as you well know).
I strive for what you've gained.
I live each day in deepening faith;
I seek what you;ve attained.
And though my time is filled each day
with love and work an dprayer,
Don't ever think that I'd forget
for you are always there.

You're there each time I cry or smile,
you're there with each good deed;
for it was you who planted love -
you, the farmer - love, the seed -
a seed which grew from childhood love
to live eternally.
You're there as it is shared with all;
you're still there tenderly.

For lessons learned don't end with death
you taught them well, you see.
Your guidance comes through memories
of things you've said to me.
And as I love those God has given
you touch them too - through me
and thus we know love has no end;
our love will always be.

So please, don't think that I'd forget
though routine seems to reign,
for in the quiet of my day
I whisper low your name.
And yes, I miss you as I pray
with tears (my foggy dew);
be reassured then, of my love.
I've not forgotten you.

copyright 1995 Cáit Finnegan

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Cycle of Life

This has been quite a week for our family. First we lost one of our parakeets, Biddy, mother of two keets, Baby B, her first hatched girl, and Bonnie Boy, her youngest son. She died just as her daughter was sitting on 5 eggs. Kind of sad she didn't see her grandkids.

Then my heart broke last Wednesday while at work when my friend of 9 years suddenly fell to a massive stroke right in front of me. My friend, my service dog, my buddy, she died so unexpectedly that it will take me a long time to get over the shock and grief. Honey, a beautiful German Shepherd, was also a mother-figure to our Yorkshire Terrier, Puca, who has never spent a day away from Honey in her 6 years. This is a major emotional hurdle for me, and has brought me to prayer seeking comfort. I find it in the belief that all creation was created by Love, for Love and to BE Love, and Love does not come to an end. Life is changed not ended, and Honey still IS, in whatever form our Creator knows to be best.

Tonight after fighting a long hard battle, my oldest cat died peacefully in my arms. We had given him to my mother for her 75th birthday. He was a kitten and so we put him in a little box, so when she opened it he popped up like a Jack in the Box, and surprised her. She was so surprised she slammed the cardboard cover back down pushing Tiger back into the box! We laughed for years that she left him scarred for life. Tiger brought my aging mother so much joy. It was the best gift she ever received, and became her friend. He was with her as she died, kissing her. We inherited him and I promised Mom I would take good care of him for her. I know I did that, especially these days as he was getting ready to meet her again. Tonight, Tiger took his last breath while I held him close telling him to "go to Grandma."

Three deaths in a week. But this morning was the first time I handled our first new baby. Hatched a few weeks ago, I left mom, dad and chick alone other than saying hi when cleaning, feeding, etc. But this morning I picked up little Sunshine for the first time. My husband was amazed at how at ease s/he was in my hands, but then I said, there is no reason to mistrust; s/he's never been harmed by a human! I hand raised the parents, so we all shared some chirps and I returned Sunshine to the nesting box. A beautiful little yellow (so far) parakeet. New life beginning while older life moved on...

I only began with birds about 10 year ago, so I'm not as familiar as I am with dogs, cats, or even goats. But I love these little friends, and learn more every day from them as well as my other pets.

So a week of death had its flip side too--beautiful new life. What kind of world would we have if every kid grew up witnessing this cycle gently in the home? I think we'd have far more respect for life, and a willingness to protect and nurture it, rather than take it for granted, or be fearful of the cycle, or do harm to others.

I give thanks tonight for the beautiful friends in my life who are feathered or furry! They are part of my spiritual community teaching me about the faithful love of our Creator. Like St. Ciaran who found community among the animals, I have been blessed by them as well.