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One of the most vital people you could meet, she celebrated her 80 plus years with the same energy that most of us celebrate turning 18, 21, or 40…
Thanks to Covid it was two years since I last saw her and last week she left us suddenly after a short illness. It was unexpected, only three days earlier Eileen had been sharing plans for a return visit to Scotland – Dublin-born Auntie Eileen was always a globetrotter.
The last time we went to the theater we did a selfie together, her first selfie. Looking at it on my phone as I headed towards the airport for an early morning flight on Monday it was hard to believe she was gone.
After more than two years without traveling outside the country, the journey was surreal, almost as if the last two years hadn’t happened, as if a forced pre-Covid normality had suddenly descended on the world.
That sense of familiarity continued at Edinburgh Airport, which didn’t disappoint – there was the familiar bottleneck at Security and a 45 minute wait, hundreds of us crammed together in the hall awaiting our turn of the scanners while the Fast Track and Family/Assistance lanes, which took up far too much of the hall remained fairly deserted throughout. Some things never change.
There was also a strange comfort to be taken from boarding a flight again, something I’d not envisioned doing until 2023, at the earliest.
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At the funeral the following day, cousins from around the world came together, Ireland, Scotland, England and Holland united in grief and a celebration of our trail-blazing mother, godmother and auntie, a role model for today let alone her own time.
We were virtually joined by family around the world through the wonders of streaming, one positive to come from lock down.
Later, as we chatted at the wake, my thoughts turned to the fact Auntie Eileen was the last of a generation… it’s our turn next. How did that happen? It seems like yesterday my big cousins were introducing me to bands like Steeleye Span, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull.
With a 10 year gap between us they were the hip kids I looked up to. When one reminded us he’s now 67, it took everyone back. You couldn’t tell. My generation seems to look so much ‘younger’ than those that went before. Old people looked, well, ‘old’ when we were kids. We certainly don’t… or do we?
Maybe we subconsciously blind ourselves to it and today’s teenagers see exactly the same ‘old person’ when they look at us that we saw back in the day. A perplexing thought.
For me, what the trip ‘home’, as my mother always called a visit to Dublin, has reinforced is that life isn’t a dress rehearsal, so grab every day, make an impression and surround yourself with people you care about.
Then, as it was with Auntie Eileen, when it comes time to say goodbye, amongst the grief will be a celebration of a life well lived. That’s something my caring, adventurous and funny Godmother taught me.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.