Let me tell you about an incredible woman; a highly sociable lady, with a fashion sense & shopping habit that I am forever envious of. A lady who loved nothing more than a chinwag, a good bargain, and welcoming visitors for tea & cake to her house. It was in this house, nestled at the end of a cul-de-sac in leafy South Dublin, that I spent many an afternoon dunking biscuits into tea, getting praised for my good grades, singing songs, and learning all about the Spillane family history, which of course included many an anecdote involving my great grandparents and Michael Collins!
The Aunts, as we affectionately called the three of them, all lived together. None of them married, but their stories are very different.
Nuala, the eldest, worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs & the World Health Organisation in Geneva in her youth. A formidable woman, and a real lady, she always had a glamorous story about life on the continent after the war. She had a huge influence on me, and I aspired to live on continental Europe just like her for a while. Nuala had polio as a little girl. As a result she walked with a stick & a special black boot, which fascinated us children. Sadly, after a fall & battling Alzheimer’s, Nuala passed away in 2012.
Iseult, the youngest, is the aunt that I know the least about, probably because between the other two she could hardly get a word in edgeways!! She was always very shy, quiet & delicate, and still is. The story I’ve been told is that when she was young, she fell in love with a young gentleman of whom her parents disapproved. So naturally, they ran away together, but her father chased after them to bring her back home. She was heartbroken,and never quite recovered. I often wonder how different her life might have been if had my great grandfather accepted her decision to be with the love of her life.
Aiveen, in the middle, was the glue that held everything, and everyone, together. One of the kindest and generous people I have ever met, Aiveen dedicated her whole life to looking after the ones that she loved; Her parents, her sisters, her brothers, her many nieces & nephews, and growing tribe of grand nieces & nephews. We were always treated like the grandchildren she never had. The last year had been tough for Aiveen. Her eyesight had started failing, her hearing was deteriorating, and her speech had become a little more unpronounced. She could just about look after herself, but in true Aiveen fashion, she worried about looking after her little sister too, whom she still did everything for. The last time I visited the house, we silently tidied & cleaned the kitchen, as she would have been mortified to known how dirty it really was. Last year, Aiveen made the decision to move herself & Iseult out of the home they had always lived in, and into assisted living in a lovely home in Foxrock.
It was here at 6am this morning that her beautiful soul peacefully left our earth after 93 wonderful years.
While Aiveen’s passing hasn’t come as a shock, the realisation that the older generation of my family will not be here forever has slightly shook me. We all have those people, family & friends, who have been a constant in our lives. We often take them for granted as they have always been there. But in reality, they won’t be there forever. I came into Aiveen’s life when she was 66. She only knew me for 27 years, but I knew her my entire life. I think this is why it is often more difficult for younger generations to come to terms with a death of an older loved one. They have known a life without you before, but you have never known a life without them.
Rest in Peace Aunty Aiveen. Give Grandad & Aunty Nuala a big hug from me.
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