Here is a bit of a story for you.

My grandmother was an immigrant to the U.S. Her childhood was spent in Ireland, in the province of Munster, in the county of Cork. I always had the impression that her childhood was a happy one (if one can judge by her stories), despite the turmoil that seemed to be going on throughout much of it, which was widespread throughout the whole of the country. I won’t bore you with Irish history, but suffice to say the battle for freedom was still alive and well during this time (especially in Cork)…it was something that she spoke about, with a Fenian gleam in her eye, for years after.

For much of her childhood, she stayed within the area she was born (I think West Cork), and associated with the same people for all of that part of her life. One person in particular seemed to be favored, and it was often talked about among the inhabitants of the town where she lived that someday the two of them should be wed. When my grandmother would speak of him, I have no doubt that they were right. He was the love of her life, and she of his. They spent every free moment together, and their love blossomed as lovely and fragrant as the roses in June. By the time my grandmother was 16, it was evident that marriage was very much in the immediate future (I believe he was 4 years her senior). As Easter came closer in the year of 1916, it was decided that this holiest of sacraments was to be conferred shortly after Easter Week. As she told the story, you could still see the look of happiness, mixed with a touch of melancholy, on my grandmother’s face. But there were other forces at work, which were to pull them apart forever.

Right before Easter, as everyone was preparing for the Holy Day, as well as for the pending marriage, her lover came to her to relay a secret. He was to leave…to go to Dublin to take part in a battle to ensure the freedom of the country. My grandmother wept bitterly, and tried to change his mind, but she knew that she couldn’t. His first love always had been for Éireann, and while she was devastated at his leaving, she would never try to compete with that love. It’s a love that not many people (at least here in the U.S.) could ever understand…true patriotism and love of your country, and a willingness to die for that love. So, with heaviness in her heart, she watched him prepare to go. And with the bitterest of tears, she watched him march with the other Volunteers down the road on the way to Dublin. Before he left, she begged him, once more, to stay, but he said to her: “If you promise to love me forever, I promise to be with you again.” She promised, and held his promise in her heart for all her years. But he never came back. It was on the steps of the GPO that her dear Séamus breathed his last breath…her name upon his lips.

It was almost too much for her to bear, and even many years later you could see the sadness of his loss in her eyes as she told her tale. Shortly after the Easter Uprising, my grandmother’s family made the trip to Cobh to board a ship en route for the United States. It was here that my grandmother eventually met my grandfather, married and started her family. It was here that she lived the rest of her days, never to go back to her native land again. I’m not sure that she could, in a way. Her loss was too heavy in her heart, even after all of those years.

My grandmother passed away about 20 years ago now. She was well in her 80’s, and she lived a very full and happy life. During that whole time, she kept her end of her promise to her dear Séamus. She loved him as no other, for as long as she lived. While he was not able to keep his end of the promise during his earthly live, it is my hope that their spirits are now together, walking through the fields of their youth, never to be separated again.

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