It’s been nearly a month since my last post. I did not mean to neglect you all. Life just happens and I could not get myself to sit down to write about all that was going on.
In the past month, my mother celebrated her 80th birthday, we got news my uncle passed away in Australia, I said a premature farewell to family and friends in Ireland to attend Uncle Jerry’s funeral in Bairnsdale and Sale, and after a year of travelling and adventures, I am now back on my Beloved Bowen. Throw in a few other family matters to deal with, that was a heck of a lot of emotion to contend with …. but I am still here, alive and kicking.
My mother health has steadily declined, even since September when I first returned to Europe as compared to now. We had great plans of bringing her home to my father’s house for a party but alas, she could not handle such an outing, so instead we had a lovely party in the ‘sitting room’ at Ballynoe Care Home. It worked out very well, she was very comfortable at Ballynoe, being made a fuss of for about 2 hours on her actual birthday. A few photos of her delight!
It’s a long auld haul from Cork to Melbourne, actual flying time is just under 24 hours, and what with connection waits and changes in timezones, we left Cork on the Thursday and arrived into the apartment in Sale at about 1am Saturday night. If we only were staying in the cities where the flights departed/arrived, it would have made it much shorter! But it was still worth the trip, I would have regretted not attending Uncle Jerry’s funeral. His sister (my aunt) Ita and her son David and I traveled, not only to represent the family but to also say a fond farewell to a man we loved.
We knew Uncle Jerry was well respected and beloved by the people of the Diocese of Sale, what we had not anticipated was the public outpouring of grief and love for him, by not only the people of the diocese and it’s clergy, but also those not connected to the Catholic Church at all. It was a tad overwhelming to be honest, a far more public funeral than I had expected. But meeting hundreds and hundreds of people, each one with a story of how Uncle Jerry had made an impact on their lives was an honour. And opened my eyes to the human being he was to each of us – he was not just my Uncle Jerry or brother to my father, Auntie Ann and Auntie Ita, but a priest first and foremost, a retired bishop who broke ground on a new kind of pastoral care when he became Bishop of Sale in 1989 and a man who loved the people of Gippsland, no matter what their faith. If he did not impress me before this, he impressed me all the more in the 3 days I spent in Sale last week.
Of course, I had only recently spent the month of August with him in Bairnsdale, hanging out, catching up, spending time with one another, having the usual discussions on the Catholic Church (I did not always see eye to eye with him but I think he enjoyed the “discussions”). I got to know Uncle Jerry’s friends a little more including Bernard Buckley, Sr Jeanette, Fr Peter Bickley, Colin & Nelly Coomber and Noreen Beirne – physio extraordinaire. I count them as my friends now. You will remember I stayed with MaryAnne Scott, a great friend of Uncle Jerry’s who opened up her home (and kitchen) to me. We had fun times, me cooking up a storm and many of her family and friends enjoying the meals. MaryAnne and I struck up a lovely friendship and I was distraught to hear of her cancer diagnosis and death on October 19, less than 6 weeks after I had last seen her. I can hardly imagine what it was like for her large family. Uncle Jerry missed his long-time friend greatly but it is warming to know they are both up above, watching over us all. While in Bairnsdale, it was lovely to be able to meet with MaryAnne’s daughters Jenny and Cath and talk of our fond memories of MaryAnne, their mum and visit her grave.
The following are a few photos of Uncle Jerry that I have but there are many more photos (back page) from long ago plus articles in the December edition of Catholic Life. Editor Colin Coomber did a stand up job in producing the publication while grieving his friend. Thank you Colin.
I and my family, Uncle Jerry’s close friends and the people of Gippsland will miss Uncle Jerry otherwise known as Jeremiah Coffey, Bishop Emeritus of Sale. And one more thing, a parishioner wrote a poem for Unc when he was leaving the Churchill Parish in 1982 for another posting. I thought the poem was fitting for his departure to eternal life.
We will miss his presence, his wisdom and wit.
His guiding but gentle hand.
We will miss his humble and gentle faith.
The virtues he brought to this land.
But all our lives will be richer by far for knowing this man as we do,
and the taste of Coffey will stay on our lips and deep in our hearts too.
May he rest in peace.
Rather than do another round the world flight, David and Ita stayed for an extra few days and flew home to Cork at the weekend. I however flew Melbourne to Vancouver, and got upgraded to business class – omg it was bliss! Bonnie and Casey from Bowen came to pick me up at the airport and gave me a lovely welcome home. It was just lovely. Bonnie wondered why I looked so well …. business class! I highly recommend it.
It’s lovely to be back on my Beloved Bowen. It’s so nice to be in my own home, the wood stove going, bumping into many friends along the trails, popping into friends and meeting more at the Christmas Craft Fair (one of the social events of the season here on Bowen :-)). It’s been relaxing and low key, just what the doctor ordered. This week and next week I will be in town aka Vancouver to catch up with some city friends, looking forward to that!
Enjoy this festive season everyone. Celebrate it with your treasured family and friends. I know I will.