Remembering Geraldine Cunningham

Today marks the 9th year since my mother in law died of cancer. Finally I think we are getting the hang of how to remember her well and honour her life within our family. Grief is a strange thing, it twists and turns and shows up in unexpected places. Life is similar. For the last 9 years it seems like we have either been through major change or dark stormy times around this time of year. This day has come and gone with little ceremony but with a darkening around husbandface’s world and an exhaustion in his bones. Grief has worked it’s way through his body and we have weathered the storms around this day.

Last year we realised we wanted more of a celebratory air to this day, to mark this day with the things we loved about Geraldine, to give our boys some tales of their Granny and to do some things she would have loved. So we will spoil our boys today, we will eat a lot of sugar, we will talk of the good times, the heart of generosity, compassion and care she had and the ways her wonderful children carry on that legacy of abundant generosity and outpoured love. We’ve bought sunflowers to fill our kitchen with her favourite flowers and we will remember her fullness as we walk on in this life.

Here are some words I wrote after we returned home 9 years ago, after her wake and funeral. I am still sad I didn’t get to know her better and I am still grateful for her heart and passion for her wonderful kids. I’m glad I got to marry one and be friends with the other.

We buried my mother in law on Saturday morning after a long fight with cancer. There is no other word to describe it, we use cliche’s for a reason after all. Fight is the word for Geraldine’s refusal to give in to despair and for how desperately she clung onto every opportunity for hope against the rising tide of cancer. I didn’t know her as well as I would have liked yet strangely her illness provided the opportunity for better chats, deeper relationship and the chance to hear her life story. These gave me a chance to see the deep love she had for her children and her strong desire to provide them with roots in this unstable world. She was a woman of passion, full of banter, who loved being in on the action, who loved gathering people for a party and who poured her life out into her family, both in her first and second marriage.

I’m sad that we won’t get told off for giggling on the sofa anymore, with her eager to join in on the joke. I’m sad that I won’t have the chance to tell her that I love her desire to get everyone she knew the perfect gift, reflecting how well she knew them. I’m sad that there will be no more moments when I can ask her questions about her past and the roads that brought her to the place she was in life.

I’m grateful for knowing her and I’m grateful that she welcomed me into the family, getting used to the strangely quiet English girl who had appeared to have stolen her son’s heart so quickly. I’m glad that we had the many trips to Belfast this year so I could know her better. I’m grateful for her enjoyment of our marriage and I love her son, my husbandface, and his care and concern for her over the last year. I love that she got to come and hang out in Brighton with us at Easter and see how we live.

It took us a while to understand each other, it wasn’t an easy straightforward relationship, we had a wide cultural divide to cross but I’m very glad to have had Geraldine Cunningham as my mother in law and we will miss her lots.

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