I was only back from my friend Siobhan’s funeral in Dublin when a big gang of relations landed on us. Siobhan died young and while her funeral was as glamorous and well attended as any funeral of a fashion/ film diva could be, I found it desperately sad. I went up and down to Dublin on the day. At the funeral itself, I wasn’t too bad. There were people to talk to, trains to catch, and canapés to be consumed.
Tears are never as painful when you are sharing them with other people. However, the following day I was fit for nothing. Unable to work, or think, I wandered around, exhausted. Bereft and shocked, I was not in the mood for entertaining. The people coming were some of my favourite people in the world. I had not seen my cousin Emily for seven years, since my brother’s funeral in London. Emily is my only first cousin on my mother’s side. Her father, Colm, the life and soul of every party, is my favourite uncle. Tom’s funeral was the last time I saw him as well. Her mother, Jean, is my favourite in-law.
Clever, accomplished and kind, she is an academic from coal-mining stock in Durham. I adore all of them and yet, somehow, we have managed not to see each other since 2009. In the meantime, Emily has acquired a husband, Tom, and a daughter, Ivy. Realising that us travelling, en-masse, to the north of England was, simply, never going to happen, Emily finally cracked and bought Tom and Ivy over to meet us. In their honour, my Auntie Sheila made a royal visit up from Cork, her first in three years. I was longing to see them all but was still shaken by the loss of my friend.
I was also anxious to get back into a routine. I needed to settle myself and connect back with my life. Instead I would have to deal with ‘visitors’. ‘Where will we put them all?!!’ Mam had said six months ago when the flights were confirmed.
‘However, the following day I was fit for nothing. Unable to work, or think, I wandered around, exhausted’ Pic: Shutterstock
That was the starting point for the ensuing ‘visitor panic’. With us being homeless-whilebuilding and Mam’s house packed to the brim with Kerrigans, I rented a gorgeous Airbnb house for the northof-Englanders. The aunt, plus my sister and her kids, all booked into the Manor Hotel in Ballina. However, once we had figured out where put them we had to work out what to do with them once they had been put there. Food. Entertainment. Chairs. That sort of thing. Mum had talked of nothing else for weeks and I was exhausted before they even arrived. From the beginning of that week shops were visited, cakes were commissioned and the fridge was packed to overflowing. On Thursday afternoon, I collapsed at my mother’s kitchen table, a wedding- spread laid out on the good tablecloth along with her mother’s china and waited for them to arrive. I felt overwhelmed.
‘WHEN IS IVY COMING?!’ Tommo was beside himself waiting for the cousin he had not met yet. The flight was delayed and he was asking every hour on the hour for her. At seven the doorbell rang. At once, Emily and I threw ourselves into each other’s arms. My gorgeous hearty young cousin. It felt so good, that embrace. So utterly alive and joyous, unlike the painful condolence hugs of the past 24 hours. It was another 10 minutes before I even got a look at adorable four-year-old Ivy. Tommo had whisked her straight off into a Lego odyssey from which they would barely emerge to eat.
‘We ate and talked and ate and talked and laughed and fried sausages and ate and talked and laughed some more.’
We ate and talked and ate and talked and laughed and fried sausages and ate and talked and laughed some more. The teenagers took selfies. The children played and pouted and fought. The following day we ventured into the drizzling day for a walk in the woods. Four adults, four teenagers and two small children. I took my cousin’s arm and said, ‘I am so happy to see you. Let’s make a real effort never to let it go so long again.’
Ahead of us, Tommo and Ivy ran in and out of the trees, squealing with the simple delight of being in each other’s company. Then it hit me. I loved Siobhan and I have lost her. These people, my family, are my life and they are still here. Loving people is a living celebration. Friends who die show us that. There was no ‘getting back’ to my life; this was my life. And last weekend I lived it to the full.
‘Tears are never as painful when you are sharing them with other people.’