I left here yesterday and posted a link on Facebook to the blog on Grandad’s letter to Mam for her 21st. My lovely cousin, Lisa Connolly, daughter of Mam’s sister – Norah, read the blog and my comment on FB that I had nothing with my mother’s writing on it.
Lisa informed me she had a letter Mammy wrote her when Lisa was living in San Francisco. The letter is dated March 14th 1991. Six days before Mammy died. When Lisa read the letter in San Francisco Mammy was dead, and Lisa read it in the company of Phyllis Glynn, a great friend of Mam’s, who had travelled to SF to spend time with her son.
Lisa couldn’t rest easy after she told me about the letter. My excitement was palpable on FB. And an excited Evelyn is an unstoppable force of Nature! Up into the attic with my lovely, lovely Lisa and she retrieved the letter. Read it. Bawled for all that was lost. She told me to P.M. her my address. I told her not to post it, I was terrified anything would happen to it. I had to have it, to hold Mammy between my fingers again.
I couldn’t sleep, so pottered around the house – a little writing, a little reading, a lot of thinking.
When the clock reached 7.30 a.m. I hopped into the car and drove the twenty odd miles to Lisa’s house, much of it down a winding country road (where bloody truckers don’t think the ‘dip your headlights’ rule applies to them). When I got near the house I realised it was probably a bit too early to have mad relatives dropping in for breakfast so I pulled into a service station and checked Facebook to see if there was anyone stirring in Lida’s house. Yes! She ‘liked’ a post of mine so she was up. I drove the last few miles and rang the doorbell. Lisa has three gorgeous children all early to mid teens and three magnificent LARGE dogs. I had them all as wound up as meself!
Lisa produced ‘the letter’ and let me hold it. She forbid me to open and read it until we both had a cup of tea in front of us.
Mammy’s sloping left-handed writing on the envelope. I sniffed it. I could SMELL her! The unmistakeable smell of talc. Of love. Of caring. Oh Sweet Jesus Tonight!
I could feel her energy between my fingers. Lisa’s daughters were going mad. The school bus was due and they weren’t going to get to see my reaction when I read 'the letter'. Just as I opened the envelope and unfolded three A4 ruled, feint and margin, foolscap pages pages the bus arrived and the girls had to leg it. They wer raging – they didn’t get to take snaps. So I promised a detailed account. Here yiz are.
I started to read it aloud and my voice caught.
‘Don’t read it aloud if you can’t’ said Lee.
‘No, I have to. I have to hear her in the room.’ I read on.
Here is the transcribed text of the letter plus the original document
Bons Secours Hosp.
.W.) Ballymun Glasnevin
(Dad’s writing for Ballymun and Hill)
14th March ‘91
How are you chicks? I believe you are away on holidays but by the time Phyllis gets to you - you’ll be back.
Well here I am back in hospital – but you’re not to worry ‘cause I’m fine and coming on – it has nothing to do with the tumours. My head is marvellous – not an ache or pain. But my breathing is desperate. My lungs and chest are all congested and I sound like a train with all the wheezing and whistling. Judy was sitting beside me the other night and she says (sic) “Jesus – name that tune in 3.” You know Judy’s sense of humour.
Lisa wants to know if I’m in for an oiling.
But all joking aside, I’m in great form and that’s the main thing and Lisa – I’m not depressed and I don’t care about anything physical, as long as I’m not suffering from depression. As long as I live I’ll never forget the ten weeks of hell at Christmas and before and after it. It was like being in a deep black pit, that I couldn't get out of. I know it was terrible for everyone – it was the worst Christmas we all ever must have had (sic) – however its all behind us now – T.G. and pray it will never come back.
I discovered a lovely saint, his name is St. Peregrine – he’s the patron saint of cancer sufferers and he’s working miracles in my life. Say a little prayer each day to him Lisa, and spread his devotion for me. Nobody here heard of him. I’m trying to get you his leaflet and believe me he was no saint in the beginning, he did terrible things – but in the latter part of his life became a cancer victim himself and there are wonderful miracles attributed to him.
Phyllis will fill you in on all the family news. Judy and Bill hae bough a house out in Killbarrack(sic) – and the final signing is 30th april. She’s delighted. It’s a grand house – I think it was £42,000, so another one for the high jump.
Evelyn has moved in with Jim and they have rented a house out in Lucan.
Aisling is home during the week and stays with Owen (sic) at weekends, so little by little they are finally making lives for themselves. T. G.
Me sons, well I just can’t get rid of them. They don’t know haow to boil any eggs. However they’ll learn bloody fast – can you ever see any of them starving.
Seamus is still ‘my hero’ the auld ‘boll---‘ is doing everything for me as I’ve got a lot weaker.
I’d say our Phyllis will have a ball. Her little new house is gorgeous. Ideal for herself and John. She ha had a few ding-dongs in it but unfortunately I haven’t been able to go as the night time I’m too shagged to go anywhere.
My bedtime is 9.30.
I’m not going to close this letter as I’ll jot down other little bits od info. As the days go on. I’m going to give Phyllis this note on Thursday.
By the way I saw ‘Beaches’ on Sunday, Louise myself and Lisa watched it on video, well the 3 of us laughed and cried our way through it. I thought it was one of the best films I’d ever seen. I just love Bette Midler.
(switches to Dad’s writing)
Just came in to see ‘Big Mama.’ She asked me to add a P.S. So this is it +P.S.
Lisa, have to close as Phyllis is collecting this. Love to Mary and baby abnd she is gorgeous and of course Noel. I’m mad about my chopping boards. Judy has her eye on one but she can F off.
I love you
So there you are. I got Mammy back today. That is the power of the written word. I could hear her, see her in my mind's eye arguing with Dad over whether the hospital was Glasnevin or Ballymun. yanking the letter back from him and saying 'Now, see what you made me do,' at the little tear on page three. I could smell her.
Write something tonight for someone you love. shove it in a drawer. In years to come they will unearth it and you will be back with them. It is said we die twice. Once when our physical body ceases breathing, and again when our name is uttered for the last time.
Elizabeth Kennedy Walsh 1937 -1991 will live here until d'Internet explodes. And some night, somewher in our little planet an idlly surfing finger will click in and Liz will leap off the page - fully formed again - her laughing living lovely self.
We love you Mam.