Friday, July 27, 2012

We Will Miss You

 In 2010 we were able to go to Australia and see Grant's Nana, I am so happy I got to meet her before she passed away.  She was a lovely lady and I wish I could have known her better.  When we visited her she had cookies and tea for us and she showed us some family photos that both of us had never seen before.  She will be missed.

Grant's mum wrote a very nice letter about her mum below.


People I have met since my return to Australia 5 years ago have said to me “what a lovely little old lady your mother is”  (while looking me up and down)’  In the words of my American daughter in-law “she is soooo cute” and quoting a friend of my nephew “she is cool, the ultimate grandmother”.  And she is all this and more.
But I know another Mona Mary Irwin.  As a young mum, raising 6 kids on a shoestring budget.  She was Big to me, she was  Firm, very organised, even Scary!  She was a devout catholic, making sure we got to mass every Sunday when we didn’t even have a car.   I remember waiting for lifts, mostly from my grandparents but because there were seven of us, we often hitched or she arranged lifts in from passing Catholics on their way to mass, the Tarrants, the Docherties, the Linches, all with their own big families.  We always got to mass every Sunday.  If we prayed hard enough we even got lifts or “invitations” to the beach on Sundays too.  She was an even better Christian in the way that she lived the whole of her life. 
She managed to feed us well, she sewed most of our clothes and even our dolls’ clothes were a great source of joy and the envy of the neighbourhood.  She was determined to give us the best education possible.  She also managed to arrange beach holidays for us every Xmas holiday.  We lacked for nothing really.  A few more hugs maybe …… But she was a very busy woman and we knew by her actions that we were well loved.  She told me once that my brother Robert and I were the only planned babies out of the seven and ironically she was much harder on us. The other siblings who just “came along” in the Catholic way of things got it less tough!
I lived away for most of my adult life, first in Sydney and later in Auckland.  I developed a strong connection with my mum through letters over the years.  How I treasured those letters.  She was very literate and had a way with words.  I got to know her more intimate thoughts and could map the changes in her over the years. 
There were many changes too.  She invented “Sea Change”.  She wrote of the joy of living by the sea, of dancing and even falling in love twice.   This was a shock to me at first, being in my mid-twenties, but it empowered me to embrace my life more fully, it gave me a great feeling of contentment and hope and I felt more secure in myself as a woman from then on.
She was a fiercely protective mother.   She raised three adolescents on her own.  She went in to battle for our poor mentally ill brother Rodney (who she will even now be reuniting with), she protected her younger daughters from the onslaught of this illness so they could get on with the business of raising their own families. 
She was also very loyal to my dad, first when he was recovering from cancer, she took him in to look after him and later she was beside him in his final illness and on his death bed and she said to me “Even though we have been separated for years …. I am a Catholic …. And in the eyes of God he is still my husband and I still have a duty of care and love”.  I admire that.
She worked very hard as a volunteer for the Woman’s Refuge and was so good at it that she was asked to take over the reins.

She had a second Sea Change (it was now catching on all over Australia) to Sawtell.  She loved living here by the Sea.  She loved her Catholic community and it was very much a part of her life.  She developed a closeness and received so much comfort and support from her younger sister Marie who our whole family loves and admires.   
She also took up golf and joined a walking club.  Prior to that she was a nurse and enjoyed playing tennis.  She also did a creative writing course and was an avid reader.  I treasure the copy I have of her tales of Briggsvale of growing up in the bush in the large Gillett family.

So lovely little old lady, my mother, you were always both fragile and strong.  You have left with me and my siblings a very great sense of love, of family, of endurance, of tolerance, kindness, of strength, resilience, forgiveness, of joy, and a sense of adventure …. So many legacies …. I will cherish.  You have made me a stronger person than I may have been without your examples throughout my life.  I have at times wondered about looking into having you canonised but then you would be way too humble for that. 

Go in peace cute little lady and please don’t stop praying for us down here.

Joanne Joy Irwin


beeswax said...

My condolences to Grant, Shannon and Grant's family. The letter from Jo is so moving, from the heart, brought tears. A family is so blessed to have someone like Mona Mary to look up to and admire. We should all live our lives as she did.
With love and sympathy, Kathy/MOM

Lacey said...

Very Sorry to hear about the loss of grants grandma, that was a sweet letter from Jo.

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