Loss And Hope

The decimation of our family began in 2010, when my father died very suddenly. The sense of loss was incredible, and the grief hadn’t begun to abate when my mother died in 2012. Losing one’s parents is shocking, and that first Christmas with no parents was chilling. Chilling, but worse was yet to come.

Veronica Carmel Mulvihill

Our lovely sister Vera passed away on April 7th at 9:30 pm. Epilepsy and medical complications marked her life, yet she always had a welcoming smile on her face. I miss Vera more and more as the months go by, yet I have the peace of having seen her and touched her beautiful red hair one last time, at the wake. There has been nothing as painful in my life as losing my little sister. I was eight years old when she was born, busily knitting blue booties for my new black brother during needlework class at school. My teacher told me I had a surprise waiting for me when I got home that day. We were all surprised!

The whole family had expected a boy, as we already had three girls. I was expecting a little black baby boy, because I brought a penny to school every week for the black babies. Vera was a beautiful baby, with curly strawberry blonde hair and bright eyes, who grew into a lively, rambunctious toddler. One day, we were getting ready to go shopping. My mother was washing Vera’s face at the kitchen sink, when she had her first epileptic seizure. Her life was never the same after that. Although she continued in school for several years, she was unable to concentrate for long, and had to leave when the seizures became more frequent and more severe.

Hospitals, doctors, and trial medications marked the stages in Vera’s life. It was not easy for our parents, but they did a great job raising all of us while taking care of Vera. At some point, the local GP prescribed steroids for Vera, which caused our skinny little sister to become heavy to the point of obesity. Indeed, during her last years she used a wheelchair to get around, as her legs were too swollen for her to walk. When our parents became too frail to lift her in and out of bed, even with the hoist, the heartbreaking decision was made for Vera to move to the Brothers of Charity Assisted Living center in Foynes. It wasn’t far from the house, and our parents visited her every day.

The staff at the Brothers became Vera’s much-loved second family, and her last years were so happy there. She had friends her own age, in similar circumstances. She went on shopping trips to Limerick. There were walks in her wheelchair around the village. Always joking, always smiling, until our father died. Vera’s physical decline began almost as soon as Paddy’s funeral was over. A few months or so after his death, our mother had a bad stroke.

Although she lived on until 2012, I am sure Vera felt that things had changed for ever. Our sister Maura stepped in and took care of Vera single-handedly. She was a constant at the Brothers, and did a wonderful job visiting Vera and making sure she had everything she needed. Maura was with Vera when she passed away, as were her other family members – the staff at the center. I was at Dulles airport trying to get a flight to Newark/Shannon.

In four short years, three members of our family are gone to God, and there are only two of us remaining. We have no grandparents on either side. Our mother’s family is entirely gone, both parents and all four children. We are blessed that two of our father’s siblings are still alive and well, Aunty Rita in Bangor, County Down and Uncle Gerry in Wicklow town.

And so it goes as we all grow older – turbulence, shock and anger. Loss and hope. Sorrow.

2014 brought all of these to me. Life simplifies with the gift of age, so my hopes for 2015 are simple ones. Health, happiness, prosperity and peace.

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