My son and I just arrived back in the US from Ireland one week ago and are facing into a very sad New Year without our darling Katrina, my daughter.
Katrina came to the United States with us, in 1994, aged 11. She went to school here. It was difficult at first as she was very lonely. She had attended a Gaelscoil [Irish speaking school] in Cork prior to this.
We all stayed even though we were so lonely for Ireland. Katrina worked so hard and was loved by so many people. She was ill in April 2014 and she ended up in ICU in Rhode Island for five or six days.
She had instructions to follow up with Endocrinology, GI and, I believe, Cardiology. I spoke with her and Skyped her many times and insisted she call the recommended specialists to make an appointment.
Unfortunately, the first question she was asked was “What insurance do you have?” Katrina worked in the hospitality industry and did not have any health insurance.
I now know that the Irish Pastoral Centre in Boston helps emigrants with various problems, including not having health coverage. Katrina didn't know that.
I would like to let other emigrants know this and if people wish to, they can make a donation in her name to The Irish Pastoral Centre, 15 Rita Road, Dorchester, MA 02124.
We miss her so much we want to do something good in her name.
My computer gave up in early November so we weren’t able to Skype, but as I was coming to the US to spend Christmas and New Year with Katrina and her brother I decided to wait to get it fixed or get a new one. I use a Mac and Katrina said she would take me to the Apple store in Providence Mall. Our correspondence was then by phone and WhatsApp. Everything seemed fine.
I had booked to arrive in to Boston on December 4 and she said she would be around to pick me up for sure as she always did. I had spoken to her about trying to get on Obamacare when I arrived or otherwise she could come back home to Ireland and we could get her health taken care of. I knew there had to be some severe underlying problem that had caused her to be in ICU for such a long period of time.
Of course she was 31 and invincible and said I was being dramatic.
When neither her brother, sister nor I had heard from her for Thanksgiving we knew something must be wrong, but nothing could have prepared us for the awful news that no parent should ever hear. Katrina was found dead in her apartment on November 28. We will not have the results of autopsy for up to three months.
We waked her in Boston and took her home to be laid to rest with her Granny (my mother) in beautiful Connemara, County Galway. She had a very strong faith and always put such a lot of faith in her Granny in times of strife.
The journey to Logan Airport that evening after the wake at the Boston funeral home and the Aer Lingus flight with our baby were heartbreaking. We arrived at Shannon Airport at 5.30am and our local undertaker met us there. All my brothers and close family were there. We then all drove after the hearse for around 150 miles to my brother's house in Connemara. On the way out through the mountains and lakes to his house we saw two double rainbows; I had never seen that before.
We lay Katrina in his front living room for her wake. That house was my home place and it is fairly a rural area, but we could not believe all the people who came from all around. Hundreds of people passed through the house that night.
The priests came and we said the Rosary and next morning the priests came again. We had two priests as Fr. Joe, a local man who was a missionary priest for many years, happened to be in the area for a while. I asked him the night of her wake as we both stood by her coffin, "WHY, why did God take her? I would have gladly gone in her place."
I'll never forget his words. He put his arm around me and said "Ah, you'll probably go with the old people, God needed someone young, there are no old angels."
She was certainly a better person than I. She often brought food from the restaurant down to the homeless shelter after she finished work at maybe 3am. I worried about her going there at that late hour. I once said, "Can you not do it next day?" She got mad at me and said, "The food would not be fresh then. Just because they are homeless they not going to eat old food."
She would be the first one to say, "Stop Mom, you're making me sound like a saint," if she could see what I've written. She didn't smoke and went to the gym, but she loved the craic and loved to drink a Guinness and Magners. She did Irish dancing and played the fiddle when she was young. She loved life.
The Mass was really beautiful. Her sister Lisa and brother Robert both spoke. I honestly don't know how they did it. I kept praying that they would not totally break down. They were tearful but did a lovely job.
They got a standing applause after. Fr. Ronnie spoke to me and the family. He said that there is a name for someone who loses their wife or husband and for someone who loses their parents, but there is no name for someone who loses a child. I don't recall ever hearing that before.
We had local traditional musicians play and sing. They played a lot beautiful traditional airs and they sang "The Water is Wide" and "The Boston Rose" and the final one was "Dreams of Home." Her brother Robbie and her uncles and her first cousins carried her coffin. We don't have professional grave diggers where I come from. Local men dig the grave and they prepared my baby's grave so beautifully. They lined it all with greenery and ivy and my uncles and Robbie lowered her into it.
Then all the family members were given a shovel of dirt to drop on the coffin as well as white and yellow roses. Then all local men take turns covering the coffin. The graveyard overlooks the Atlantic.
I’m back in Rhode Island until end of January. Hopefully we will have the results of the autopsy by then. I don’t know if it will make me feel any different when we get the results and I know it won’t bring her back or mend our broken hearts. We are totally devastated and finding it so hard to think of life without her beautiful smile and wicked sense of humor.
I wish I could do something in her name to help others. She was such a giving person. My only bit of comfort now is that she is with her Granny and I know she will take care of her.
Click here to read Katrina's obituary.