Friday, January 31, 2014

The Last of the O'Sullivan Sisters. Part 1 of 2.

Catherine(Kit)O'Sullivan in her heyday.

Today my mother would have been 100 years old if she had lived. A rare thing, you'd think. But you'd be wrong. Her grandmother, my great-grandmother whom I remember well, lived well into her nineties and had a misstep on her stairs and fell to her death when I was, what, 8 or 9. So 100 would not be far-fetched. It certainly wasn't in the case of my recently deceased aunt who lived to be just shy of her 95th birthday.

I was fortunate enough to have 8 blood aunts. My father had 5 sisters, my mother 3. They wended their way in and out of our household when we were growing up and my father's two surviving sisters, when he had passed, would meet for lunch once a week in a fancy hotel in Cork when well into their nineties.

However, my mother died in her fifties leaving her 3 sisters and her mother bereft along with her own husband (my father) and 6 children, 3 of whom were teenagers.

I have written of some of my aunts before, here's a link.

My maternal aunts along with my mother were four stunning girls and in that old expression would make the heads of the blind turn and weep at their beauty. I have no trouble believing that, having been at several Nollaig Na mBans when I was growing up and listening to their raucous stories. The sisters remained extraordinarily close to the end of their days.

My mother's last surviving sister died last week. I visited her every year I returned home to Ireland. Up to a few years ago she played golf and bridge but then her baby, a son of 49, died a horrible death from lung cancer and she 'turned'. She looked inward then, much like my grandmother did when my mother died, and was never the same. Inner memories pertaining to the deceased loved one were deleted, never to return, while girlhood reminiscences were embraced as if they were yesterday.

We take our ease and comfort where we can and losing a child is unimaginable, no matter what the age.

Part 1 of 2. See Part 2 here.


  1. "and losing a child is unimaginable, no matter what the age."

    Yes, this is true, WWW. To my great sadness, I know it so well.

    A great story so far. Very well written.

  2. Thank you Irene, and you have shared your heartbreak. I can only say I am so very sorry. It must be an ongoing agonizing ache and loss.

  3. Oh yes
    and once again I relate to so much with what you share.
    My mother passed away at 82 and will be 14 years this month.
    What stories I heard about her and my father's sisters who were all beauties. You reminded me
    and yes to lose a child I can hardly imagine..
    Also on music
    no ipod here :)

  4. It must be tough to lose your mother's last surviving sister.

    I wanted to thank you for recommending Gabrielle Roy. My copy of The Hidden Mountain has arrived. I was already reading another book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and I typically do not read two books at once. However, The New Jim Crow is so distressing that I needed an antidote, and the beauty of Roy's writing was just what I needed. In my writing life, I'm trying to make progress on a novel after getting stuck, and I felt Roy got the feeling so right when she wrote of Pierre, "He made himself the target of the deep disgust that racks the noblest and most fertile beings when they feel that they are empty of everything save a sterile, lacerating desire--or rather only a vague desire for the lost desire." I am far from "the noblest and most fertile" of beings, but I do understand that "vague desire for the lost desire." I'm parceling out the pages in the book as antidote to the other, which I must finish before a book club discussion, and, after all, think must be read if I am to consider myself a caring person.

  5. The drowning death of my brother at 23 defintiely changed my mother. It is a loss I can't quite wrap my mind around.

  6. A very heartfelt story here. It makes me feel how loved our families are, but also, how sad it is to see them pass on.

    Words can not adequately express my feelings for what you and the other commenters have shared.

    I'm glad you had so many aunts.

  7. We expect our parents to go before us and there is always the possibility we might lose our spouse, but to lose a child is unthinkable.


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