My dad called me last Friday night to say his sister died suddenly. I didn’t get details on it, but was so shocked I didn’t ask. I immediately made plans to return home for the funeral. They did the same, as they were in Spain. My sister called me the next day, but was too choked up to say any more than it was a car accident. I was grieving all weekend – but I got another call Sunday from her. She said our aunt’s car had gone off a pier into the sea. I looked up the Coast Guards’ website, and it didn’t look like an accident.
I worked Monday, and flew home to get there at 9AM. My father had gone to the police for the postmortem on Monday, along with his surviving 5 brothers and sisters. The police confirmed she had driven off the pier and was unable to be rescued despite the best efforts of the Coast Guard and bystanders. It seemed unreal – she was very religious. About 4 weeks previous, she had collapsed and hit her head. I was told she wasn’t the same following this injury. But it’s likely she was already feeling lost at this point. She had been caring for her mother who had Alzheimer’s for much of the last decade. She seemed quite isolated despite having her family who were all in frequent contact. She never married and had no children. She volunteered for people with disabilities for several decades and brought people on pilgrimages to Lourdes, a place of miraculous healing.
In Ireland, a wake is held in the dead person’s house. They are usually put in their bed or in the front room, and people come to pay their respects and celebrate the life of the person with a party. We had a great crowd come through and mourn her. Her death was not the defining part of her life. We had people taking turns all night with her as we planned the funeral and the readings. Everyone that was close to her would take a reading, play a piece or sing. Even the priest had known her and was very close to her. It was a great relief to me that she was given a proper Mass, despite committing suicide. The service itself was fitting, and brought together all the circles she had been a part of. About 400 people came, which was a lot for a Dublin funeral. Her 6 brothers and sisters were the pallbearers. I walked behind them with her picture – the eldest of the nieces and nephews.
She shared her father’s grave. Two weeks prior to her death, they went to the graveside for the anniversary of his death. She didn’t bring flowers. My mother wondered at that point if she was already suicidal. Everyone in the family knew something was not right after her injury. But maybe this had been going on a long time. Regardless of how she died, her family tried to be there for her as much as possible, but she was a deeply private person and didn’t let them help her. The day before she died, she and her sister took the younger bunch of nieces and nephews to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The next morning, after my father called her about getting double glazing in the house, she left her phone and credit cards at home, and got into her car to drive to her death.
It has left us with so many questions. We have mourned her deeply.