Memorial Day Thoughts

Recently I traveled to Florida and on my flight from Louisville to Atlanta I shared a soldier’s last journey home.  The experience heightened my personal awareness and reverence for the profound contributions of our servicemen and women.

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Today is Memorial Day, a day dedicated to remembering those who have died while serving our nation.  This day is a unifying way for all Americans to commemorate our shared history.  Today especially we honor those who have sacrificed everything to protect our freedoms.

 

“A hero is someone who has given his or her

life to something bigger than oneself.”

-Joseph Campbell

 

Only after the plane landed, the pilot shared with us that a fallen soldier was also on board.  When the plane reached the gate, nobody moved, sitting in reverential silence as the honor guard descended the steps to the tarmac.

I sat there speechless with my fellow passengers, internally processing the extraordinary selflessness of his service and his family’s great sacrifice.  He forfeited his future to preserve ours.

He died for our life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, values treasured by Americans since the time of the Revolutionary War.

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My seat was on the opposite side of the plane to where the honor guard saluted his arrival at the airport.   I did not witness his flag salute, but I paid him tribute in my thoughts.  When I finally left the plane his cortege was moving away, led by a dedicated transportation vehicle, adorned with the stars and stripes.  On the side the following words were painted:

 

“All Give Some,

Some Give All.”

 

This unknown soldier may always remain nameless to me and my fellow passengers, but in our hearts we commemorated his American identity and his sacrifice to protect our liberties.   As a nation of families and friends our thoughts were with his loved ones.  We will never forget their sacrifice, suffering and grief.

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“On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes

of a mighty nation!”

-Thomas William Parsons

 

Today, as I think back on this moving experience my prayers are dedicated to the memories of all soldiers killed in the far too many wars this nation has endured for the sake of liberty.

 

“And I’m proud to be an American,

where at least I know I’m free.

And I won’t forget the men who died,

who gave that right to me.”

-Lee Greenwood

 

 

May God Bless America and her courageous sons and daughters.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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Who Was Mary Esther O’Brien?

Mary Esther O’Brien!  I love this name, ever since I heard it in 1988 when I first arrived in America.

I do not know much about Mary Esther, except that I bear a striking resemblance to her. In fact, I most likely am the spitting image of her. Here is the story of our mystery woman, and why she has piqued my interest.

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When I first crossed the pond to Elmira, New York in 1988, I worked in a rehabilitation hospital. As a physical therapist, I treated many older folks after surgery or a stroke. Many of my patients suffered from dementia, their worlds a little fuzzy and mixed up, especially after undergoing anaesthesia.

I was assigned as physical therapist for a lovely lady, who had just broken her hip. When I tried to introduce myself, she looked at me, and declared:

 

 “I know you. You’re Mary Esther O’Brien.”

 

I tried to tell her my real name, but she would hear nothing of it. She was convinced she had once again met Mary Esther.

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And so, everyday as we worked together, I transformed into Mary Esther O’Brien. We chatted and laughed, as my patient learned to move and walk again. Her progress was astounding despite her dementia, surprising her doctors. They had informed her daughter it would take many months for her mother to recuperate from surgery.

She proved everyone wrong. In her mind she was racing through the meadows of Corning, New York with her long, lost friend Mary Esther O’Brien. Anything, Mary Esther asked her to do, she did willingly, never complaining of pain or discomfort. Her recovery had nothing to do with my skills as a therapist, but everything to do with reminding her of the happy days of her youth.

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Her daughter was delighted to see her mother so happy at physical therapy. Mary Esther was a mystery to her too.

When I tried to inquire a little more about Mary Esther, I did not get much helpful information. My patient would look at me indignantly, admonishing me for not remembering.

 

“What do you mean, you do not know

where you were born?”

 

“You’re Irish, of course!!”

 

“Are you losing your marbles, Mary Esther?”

 

I loved this response from a lady with severe dementia.

Six weeks after discharge, my patient returned for a follow-up visit. The moment she saw me again, she hugged me, and told me:

 

“I missed you Mary Esther.”

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Mary Esther told her how much she missed her too.

 

All I know is that Mary Esther O’Brien was probably born between 1910 and 1920, and lived somewhere in the Corning or Elmira region of New York State. She may have been born in Ireland, or at least her parents were, since I was told I spoke just like her. Mary Esther had an Irish, not an American accent. She was not known as Mary O’Brien. Everyone called her by her full name, Mary Esther.

One day recently, I tried to solve my mystery by searching the census records of 1910. Pages of Mary E. O’Briens were listed in New York State.

Unfortunately, I could not tell Mary Ellens apart from Mary Esthers. I did find two entries for a Mary E. O’Brien in Elmira, New York. One was 29, and the other 45 years old, at the time the 1910 census was completed. Neither age matches my tale, since my Mary Esther would have been very young in 1910.

And so, that is the story of my alias, my potential pen name, Mary Esther O’Brien.  It really does have a lovely ring to it.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

 

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Powerscourt Waterfall

Powerscourt Waterfall in County Wicklow is Ireland’s tallest waterfall.  It was my favorite place to visit on a day trip from Dublin as a child.  I have fond memories of many family picnics beside these falls.

 

There is something about the sound of crashing water that whets the appetite for ham sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil.  Fresh air is the best sauce in the world.   Everything just tastes better outdoors.

King George IV of England visited Powerscourt in 1821.  The owner of the demesne and waterfall, Richard Wingfield, the 5th Earl of Powerscourt, decided to dam the River Dargle prior to showing the falls to the King.  He planned to stand, with the King, on a bridge in front of the falls to observe the torrential flow.  Fortunately the King was held up at a reception at Powerscourt House and missed the spectacle at the falls.  When the waters were released, the bridge from which he was to view the falls, was swept away by the massive flow of waters.

Here is a short video of the falls, which will give you an idea of how foolish the Earl’s plan was.

I love to play this video whenever I need to still my mind by listening to the powerful sounds of falling water, and to rekindle childhood memories.

Here is a link for the official Powerscourt Estate & Gardens website.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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Got Ireland – A Great Irish Website

GotIreland.com is one of my favorite Irish websites online.  Created and written by a fellow Irishman, Liam, who also now calls the US home, it is a fantastic place to learn about all the great things Ireland has to offer.

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His logo is stunningly beautiful with intricate Celtic knotwork highlighting the lettering.  I love how Liam describes his inspiration for creating his site:

“Sitting at home one night, reading some more negative news about
Ireland, I decided I wanted to do my part to put some good stuff about
Ireland on the web. Ireland has been kind of down in the dumps lately –
high unemployment, EU bailout, emigration – you get the message.”

- Liam from GotIreland.com

http://gotireland.com/2012/04/22/the-shandon-tower-cork-citys-famous-four-faced-liar/

Cork City - Liam's Hometown

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So tired of all the doom and gloom about his homeland, Liam decided to do something.  The Ireland of his childhood is a place to remember fondly, and he firmly believes that Ireland has not truly changed all that much.  In his words…..

 

“Well, quite frankly, there’s enough about all that negativity online and
on TV. People at home and abroad need to be reminded of all the good that
Ireland has – our proud history, our music and culture, our resilience to
what life throws at us, our friendly welcoming nature and so much more.”

 

-Liam from GotIreland.com

 

With posts on culture, music, travel advice, destination reviews, and photos of Ireland, it is a great resource for anyone planning a trip to Ireland.

 

http://gotireland.com/2012/05/09/the-ruined-farmhouses-of-ireland/

An Irish Farmhouse Ruin

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Some stories I really enjoy include:

The Ruined Farmhouses of Ireland

Catholic Mass Rock – A Place To Celebrate Mass During Penal Times

The Shandon Tower – Cork City’s Famour Four-Faced Liar

Bunratty Castle And Folk Park

http://gotireland.com/2012/05/04/catholic-mass-rock-a-place-to-celebrate-mass-during-penal-times/

Commemorative Stone At An Irish Mass Rock From Penal Times

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And so if you are planning a trip to the Emerald Isle or if you just like to read inspirational stories and appreciate beautiful photos of the land of my birth, I highly recommend GotIreland.com as a site for all things Irish.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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I Love My Mom Because ……

First let me wish you all a very Happy Mother’s Day today.  To all the Irish mom’s who celebrated Mother’s Day in March, belated Mother’s Day greetings.  Do something special again today, just for you.

Here is a little story to brighten your Mother’s Day and which definitely falls into my “out of the mouth of babes” category.

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When my eldest son was in Kindergarten all the children in his class drew a picture and wrote a short answer to the all important statement:

 

I love my Mom because …….

 

A beautiful picture gallery in homage to all the wonderful kindergarten Moms adorned the school hallways.  Lovely motherly images, with sweet sentiments of motherly appreciation greeted all.

I had volunteered to help in his classroom that week so I was lucky to have a few moments to pause and browse the lovely artwork.

 

I love my mom because …..

 

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……. “she hugs me tight before I go to sleep.”

 

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…….” she reads me bedtime stories.”

 

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…….  “she is beautiful and kind.”

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…… “she loves me so much and takes care of me.”

 

 

I smiled, enjoying all the lovely expressions of love.

 

And then I found it…….

 

Hanging in the lower corner of one wall was my own son’s artwork.   I can assure you no other mom was serenaded with appreciative words to equal those of my Irish American son.

Below a beautiful stick figure image of a woman sweeping the floor were the beautiful words

 

“I love my Mom because ……

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…… she does the work.”

 

He may have been born in America, but I am raising a good Irish boy.  Who needs love and hugs and kisses?  A mother should do the work, keep the house clean, make the dinner ….. sure the list goes on and on.  And in one fell swoop of his pencil my little boy encapsulated the age old philosophy of my forefathers  – The  best reason to love any woman is if “she does the work”.

So a word of warning to all the lovely American girls who plan to charm my little Romeo in the future.  Forget about whispering sweet nothings in his ear, fancy manicures, and romantic dinners.   He is Irish and will be looking for a woman who “does the work”.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!  Have a lovely relaxing day with your families and may all you do, especially your hard work throughout the year, be appreciated today by those who love you.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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