The Cotoneaster tree will be another reminder of our child. Its white
flowers in summer will remind us of how happy and innocent
our child was, and the red berries in winter will remind us of the
sorrow we felt when he was called away. For Mary, the
drooping boughs are a symbol of how the weight of our
sorrow caused our spirits to sink eighteen years ago. When
Mary and I are asked by strangers how many children we
have, we always reply four. But in our hearts we know we have
five children. Frances never omits him as a family member:
I always count him among my brothers and sisters when
I am asked about my family. I never add that he is dead,
and I always speak of him in the present, because I
believe he is in the present. Just not with us physically.
I believe we will all be together again in Heaven. And
I can’t wait for that. I used to be terrified of death, but
after Cathal died that left. I’m not afraid of dying, but
of leaving those I love behind.
At the beginning of this book I gave portraits of how our
family remembers Cathal. As I near the end I would like to
share another one drawn by Frances:
Cathal was a very quiet, gentle baby. He was beautiful.
He looked like Mammy and Deirdre. I remember him
smiling from his white baby seat. I remember washing
him. Later he became a ball of energy, a whirlwind. He
had a great imagination, and one little cap gun could
transport him into cowboy and Indian land.
He was constantly playing and making noise. He had
a strong, unbreakable spirit. He never saw danger. He
was mischievous and daring. He resisted being defined
and confined. He did not conform to the rules of the
O’Shea household. He was a law onto himself. He loved
Mammy totally and he sat on her lap a lot, even when
he got big.
He depended on Mammy for love and ran to her for
respite after wearing himself out playing. He belonged
to himself only. He was independent and fierce.
When a Child Dies. Footsteps of a Grieving Family. Published by Veritas