My Mother died when I was 19, but I’m not sure there has been a day when I haven’t thought about her, “spoken to her”, or missed her terribly. She was a beauty indeed – but in hindsight my abiding memory was of somebody who lit up the world with a childlike Irish charm, a female boldness at odds with the times and my world was filled with magical stories of naughty leprechauns, fairies at the end of the garden and endless tales of the antics of my many many Irish relatives (my Mother being the youngest of 14 children).
Oh the Irish are such wonderful storytellers don’t you think? I’m sure it’s in the DNA – that and a liking for the drink:) Great article on why there are so many Irish writers https://francishpowellwriter.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/why-are-there-so-many-great-irish-writers/
In truth my Mother was a complicated character – aren’t we all? And a family motto of “don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story” did not, I now believe, serve us well. But there was something deep and beautiful that cursed through the McKay veins – whilst she truly believed that there was nothing she, or any of her children, was incapable of doing, she extended the same belief in all living beings. I have never met anybody with such a complete disregard for status – she truly believed she was no better, or no worse, than any other living being – and that included the menagerie of wounded wild animals that would fill our home.
“There’s good in the worst of them, and bad in the best,” Grandma McKay would mutter.
And it is this quality above all others that I feel has held me steady, giving me purpose, a reason to believe through all of my troubles. I think the greatest gift my Mother gave me was the ability to view life with “a light touch” – to never expect the worst or the best but to always try to find the connection. Oh and the humour. That is a must.
I look in the mirror now and I see my Mother within me. I see my daughter too. Maybe some hope for my dear friends just setting off on the path of grief – my experience has been that love does not disappear it just changes shape. I still have a very lively, full-on – painful yes – relationship with both my Mother and my daughter. They are in my veins. The women in my life have always been pretty bonkers, but they’ve also provided me with a blueprint of what real female power/energy looks like – it may be courageous, edgy and difficult but it is also kind, warm and graceful.
I feel my family story has shaped me so much and for that I’m so grateful. As a writer I want to capture it’s essence for the younger members of my family – my daughter, my grand-daughter, my Sarah and all my numerous younger relatives – oh and for any young woman out there who grants me the honour of passing something on. So here goes. :
- Always give people the space and time to connect to you. A lot of initial bad/unfriendly behaviour is just a front for unhappiness. Look beneath – but if it’s still bad under there run like hell and never go back.
- Build your tribe of people with gentle hearts and give everything you can to them. Female friendships are one of life’s greatest and richest gifts. I have friends of 25 and 85 – I have childhood friends and women I’ve met this year. Cultivate, grow and love your friends – nothing will compare.
- NEVER let anybody or anything define who you are. Regret is a terrible thing to live with and horrible to die with. At all times be true to yourself and to your own values and integrity – and defend these with your life. It is this that gives you purpose.
- Liars don’t heal – I heard this from a well known psychotherapist the other day – and it’s been running through my mind. If you lie, are deliberately cruel to another being – your body knows what you have done. You may try and justify it, but you are poisoning your soul and your whole system. Make amends quickly and vow to respect yourself too much to hurt anybody else.
- Be humble and don’t feel entitled. I learnt this when my daughter was ill “why me” I’d wail. Why not you? I’d challenge myself. Why ever would I think I was so special that I wouldn’t have total heartbreak. Loss/death are part of life – my huge Irish family knew this well – I’m making peace with this now.
Oh and finally one of my favourite kick arse quotes:
“We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn.” ― Tish Thawer,
Mary Mckay, Norma Mckay – I hope you can hear me up there
Have a fabulous week and please keep writing to me – I love hearing from you on here or privately.