I was at a Requiem Mass for Rose Anne Winn today. It was great. I don’t mean the religious service. I can take them or leave them. Apart from funerals, usually it’s the latter. Auntie Rose was my godmother. The last remaining matriarch of the Connelly family, which included my mum Jean, and her sisters Auntie Phyllis and Auntie Cathy. Only Uncle Ben, in Canada, of the patriarchal line remains. Uncle Tom and Uncle Terry are dead. What I mean by the funeral was great was most of my cousins were at the service. We’re blood relations and we could argue about who had the best mum. Obviously it was mine. But I don’t mind my cousins blethering on about how great their mums were, or are, because your mum never leaves you. It’s the one sure thing to make grown men weep. But I guess we were lucky that way. If you needed a bed you had a bed and if you had a mouth you needed fed. Lugs were for listening and there was always that touch that showed you were being heard. The world would stop turning if you refused a cup of tea.
Wullie Cunnigham joked with me that I was writing all this down for later. The joke was on him, because of course I was. Lugs are for listening. Where did I learn that?
But I never really listened. Sometimes, regardless, you pick up a thing or two. My Auntie Rose was buried with roses. But she didn’t need to worry, my Uncle Wullie Winn was in his casket waiting for her. I saw from the headstone he’s been dead seven years. I forgot. She never. They were married that long their neighbours were Adam and Eve and they used to compare gardens with each other. Uncle Wullie in his own quiet way was competitive. The first to have a car that wasn’t stolen and he held down every job in the West of Scotland, including child catcher, and always came back for overtime. A Rose, still a Rose, by any other name. Happy to take a back seat. Auntie Rose can never by plain, but can be self-effacing.
Housewife, what does that mean? She wasn’t married to bricks and mortar. Glasgow had the worst housing in Europe and that’s after our bombers flattened Munich. In a book about the boxer Benny Lynch it seems that one of the many things he had to contend with in the Gorbals was bubonic plague. I guess you thought that died off in the Middle Ages. That generation was tough. Tenement flats so overcrowded, above them lived Cholera. Next door Tuberculosis. But the most contagious outbreak were Catholics. And the Proddies worst fears were realized. Not only were there Connellys, but everywhere you went you went there was somebody that looked a bit like you. A bit of a weirdo family. Because they seemed to enjoy a good funeral too. I saw lots of them today. Sticky buggers, you can’t get away from them.
Here’s where I put that the flowers in her garden were her children and grandchildren. She was happy for them to shine. To watch that first step, first smile and tantrums. When there were tears she was always near. But not today, it was a celebration of 88 years.
Last orders, put others first. I kept a wee note she sent me. ‘Congratulations Jack well done having your book published. Your mum and dad would have been so proud of you as I am too. Hope you have a nice day on Saturday. Love and best wishes to you and Mary. Auntie Rose. x’
You know she was thinking of me. Looking out for me. Even though I’m an adult (ahem, or like to think I’m one). She stepped seamlessly into being my mother as Auntie Phyllis and Auntie Cathie surely would have done.
Love and best wishes to you too Auntie Rose. Congratulations on a life full of thanksgiving, compassion and love. We don’t look for saints, but sometimes we’re lucky enough and we find them along the way. x Jack
Life as it should be lived.