So, Mother’s Day will be here soon. My dear Mum, Ellen Hynes MacFarlane, has been gone two years now, but somehow she’s as much with us as the day she died, age 92, in 2015.
She had slipped away gradually over the previous two or three years, a process of becoming physically and mentally frailer, as her marbles, her memories, gradually and inexorably rolled away from her, leaving her with only the need to hold on ever tighter to those she loved and she knew loved her. She may have often forgotten our names, but she always knew who we WERE, and reached out to us to seek the comfort of our love, especially in her final days. And she never stopped being herself. One of the last things to go was “Danny Boy.” When she could no longer remember the house she had lived in for 50 years, she could sing Danny Boy, note and word perfect, from beginning to end. She probably sang it on this, her 90th birthday celebration.
Arranging her funeral, though naturally sad, was in many ways a joyous task, and I think enabled we six sisters to express our love for this tiny indomitable Irish woman, not always easy to live with but so full of vision and determination for her family. I think maybe the very best thing was my sister Mary’s inspired idea to hold the funeral reception in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Galleries, where Mum was a guide for many years. She would have so loved this unique tribute and it really did feel that she was with us when we mourners gathered together in the great hall while the magnificent Kelvingrove organ resounded to the strains of – what else? – Danny Boy. The memory still brings tears to my eyes.