Maurice Brick, a stalwart for decades in the Irish American community recently lost his wife, Mary Ellen, after a long illness.
Like thousands before him, he brought her ashes home to their beloved West Kerry to her final resting place there. Here is his moving account of her last journey home.
Tomorrow I leave for Gorta Dubha, in County Kerry, Ireland and I’m taking Mary Ellen’s ashes to be buried there. It was her wish to be where her heart was since she first visited, in 1965. She was captivated by the place from the very beginning.
Her Mom was born in Ballyferriter and while growing up in New Rochelle she took many mind-trips through Boulteen, Béal Bán, Gort Na Lice and the villages around but it didn’t rightly prepare her for the “real thing”. She loved it. She saw the magic that we who lived there never knew existed.
Eventually, my sister Mary Clare and her took a trip to London where I worked and I met Mary Ellen for the first time in Euston Station and I loved her instantly.
Sometime afterward while dancing at the Galtymore, in Cricklewood, I stopped in the middle of a waltz and told her I’d follow her to New York. And I did.
Throughout our fifty-one years of marriage, we were drawn to West Kerry and we visited often. We were thrilled to introduce our daughter, Eilís, to its rare beauty.
It was Mary Ellen’s repose. She, believe me, was responsible for building our house in Gorta Dubha the village where I was born. She went back for long summers to see it built into a fine house where she would rest and take her ease.
So, she and I are taking our last journey together tomorrow evening and we’ll arrive in Shannon and head from there to Gorta Dubha. She won’t be giving me directions this time but I think she’ll find a way to make sure we’ll get there safe.
Eilís, Mike and Declan, (her grandson) are coming the following week and we’ll have a Grand Mass in St. Vincent’s Church, Ballyferriter on Saturday, November 30, 10:30am. There will be music and song there and Mary Ellen will get the great send-off befitting one who loved it all.
St. Vincent’s Church, in Ballyferriter, was crowded. All came to say goodbye to Mary Ellen. Our friends, Fr Kiely, Bishop Bill Murphy, and Fr Hickey said the Mass mostly in Irish, with some English. Friends and relatives came from near and far.
There were songs and hymns and Mossie Scanlon finished with a beautiful rendition of “Éamonn a’Chnoic” (Ned o’The Hill) one of Mary Ellen’s favorite songs in Irish.
Though she didn’t understand a word of it, she just loved the tune of it. The organist and choir were lovely she would’ve loved the festive feel of it all.
I carried the urn with Eilís, Mike, and Declan by my side and we headed for the cemetery of Dún Urlain.
There was a stiff bit of a breeze, the sky had darkened some. It’s only a field or so away from Gorta Dubha, which is in clear sight from there. It is also within sight of Béal Bán, An Triúr Deirféir (The Three Sisters) and Mounts Márthain and Brandon.
It’s well sheltered from that sometimes Wild Atlantic. My nephew Pádraig Óg with Eilís beside him lowered her into the ground and Fr Kiely and Fr McKenna said some prayers.
Then as we were about to disperse, Noelie Malone raised his voice and sang another favorite written by Garry McMahon: “My Home In Gorta Dubha”. Mossie joined in the last few verses and their voices resounded from the village below.
Mary Ellen, Mo Grá Go Deó (My Everlasting Love) was at rest in her Beloved West Kerry.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam (May she rest in peace).
Read more: A child’s Christmas in a West Kerry village