Saturday, March 02, 2013

Saying goodbye to Gill

There's a small basket with yellow roses on the front step of the altar, and in it is a sod of grass from Moyola in Kilcullen, where Gill and the rest of us grew up.

As children we all played on that grass, and when, at the age of nine or ten, I was playing cowboys and indians with my brothers and our friends, Gill was the little one with a yellow ribbon in her hair who always wanted to join in.

She wanted to play because she loved us, but also because she was determined not to be left out of the gang. When she did join in, she played with loyalty to whichever side she was picked, and a commitment to keep up, no matter what.

So, for a few minutes I'd like to look a little more into those characteristics that were key to the makeup of our sister. Love, loyalty, commitment, determination.

Everybody loved Gill, and she had a wondrous capacity to be able to love everybody back. But especially her family. I have never known any couple so fiercely, yet so tenderly in love as Gill and Frank. And there's the ultimate reflection of that love in their children and grandchildren, which will be a strength and a solace to each other for all of their own lives.

Gill was fiercely loyal, to her family, and to her friends. There are no doubt many instances of that which I would not be aware of, but those of you here who were close to her in your own different ways will be very aware. A childhood friend recalled the other day how her sister was having trouble with another girl trying to muscle in on a boyfriend. Gill made a point of meeting up with that other girl and telling her in no uncertain terms to back off. I suspect they were all about 14 at the time.

Whatever Gill took on, she did so wholeheartedly and without compromise. Whether it was about raising a family, rowing into the complexities of nurturing often struggling businesses back to health, or simply taking up golf rather later in life, she just dived in and gave it her all.

When Gill put her mind to something, it was a given that it would happen. Whatever the circumstances. I believe that within a couple of days, maybe even less, after her major heart operation, she was out to the shops during visitor hours rather than sit there in her hospital bed. In these more recent and fraught times, she fought and won battles in her war against her illness, and even when she knew it was the final and losing battle, it seems that she very much made her own decisions about how and when it would end.

Her spirit
Whether we call it the soul, the spark of life, life force or whatever, Gill had an enormous inner energy. It's a law of physics that energy cannot be destroyed, it simply changes into another form. Gill no longer has need of her life force, and has now shared it out amongst those of us she leaves behind. It's an energy from just one person that could conceivably power the sun for a thousand years, and we and those who follow in Gill's line will be powered by it for as long as those generations endure.

Most of all, Gill was sister to myself, Fergus, Gary and the late Des. She was wife to Frank, mother to Rory and Sandy and grandmother to Mollie, Danny, Rose and Jenny, and she welcomed with unstinted love Anne and Michael into her family. Her decades long friendship with Katy was also as close as family, while Des's Josephine and she were like sisters.

We will all miss her terribly. But we are so much stronger for having had her in our lives, in whatever way. And so it is with deep sadness, but also an enormous amount of gratitude and love that we now say farewell to Gill.

Good night, sunshine sister. Sleep well in our hearts.

(Delivered at the funeral mass for Gillian Becker, nee Byrne, March 1 2013)