Where do I begin?

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!

Me and mum on her 80th birthday

Me and mum on her 80th birthday

Sinead made mum's favourite - apple tart and cream.  Here is Sinead helping mum demolish the plate of tart!

Sinead made mum’s favourite – apple tart and cream. Here is Sinead helping mum demolish the plate of tart!

Come of you Canadians met Cian and Billy when they were keen high to a grasshopper.  They are all grown up now!  Later that day, Cian got both is beard and curly mop, tidied up ..... thankfully.

Some of you Canadians met Cian and Billy when they were knee high to a grasshopper. They are all grown up now! Later that day, Cian got both his beard and curly mop, tidied up ….. thankfully.

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.

A lovely memory for me.  Uncle Jerry used to summer with us every 2 years in Garrettstown.  the big treat was getting ice creams at the day at the beach.  here's a photo of Unc, me in the middle and my eldest sister Deirdre on the left.

A lovely memory for me. Uncle Jerry used to summer with us in Garrettstown Co Cork when he came home to Ireland for a visit every two years. The big treat was getting ice creams after a day at the beach. Here’s a photo of Unc, me in the middle and my eldest sister Deirdre on the left.

Photo of myself and Unc on our last day together in Bairnsdale, August 2014, just before I walked part of the Camino  in Spain with my sister Grace.

Photo of myself and Unc on our last day together in Bairnsdale, August 2014, just before I walked part of the Camino in Spain with my sister Grace.

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.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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2 Responses to Where do I begin?

  1. Katherine Michaux says:

    Kate!!!!! A big welcome home.
    We are so sorry to hear about your Uncle. Always a tough thing to process. I hope you take some relaxing time being home. Your travels were full of ‘everything’.
    We will be at Gord’s family over Christmas but perhaps we will see you sometime in the new year.
    So glad you are safe and sound and Bowen is so lucky to have you back!!!

  2. Tandi says:

    Merry Christmas Kate. I’ve been wondering what its like for you to be home. I’m happy that you are back on beloved Bowen, but sorry for the loss of your dear uncle. He sounds like a remarkable man – I would have loved to meet him. Take care now.

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