RIta Walsh – A Beautiful Life
My eulogy for my beloved aunt Rita, delivered at Blackpool Church, Cork, on February 19th, 2015.
The Walsh family would like to thank you all for joining us here today to celebrate the life of our beloved Rita.
Rita Walsh never married, never had any children, didn’t drive an expensive car, own a huge house, nor have much of a taste for designer brands. Yet, Rita Walsh is one of the most successful people any of us are likely to ever know. Rita lived a beautiful life.
Rita valued fun. She had a whole hearted enjoyment of life and brought joy with her where ever she went. Her quick comments, the roll of her eye, singing while washing the dishes, her easy laugh, her ability to make the mundane magical, and to create adventures out of ordinary situations. Rita loved music and art. She played the piano, painted, sang and danced. All the Walsh cousins, share childhood memories of dressing up and belly dancing with Rita in Glenshee.
Rita valued childhood. She had the heart of a child and as children, my cousins and I could sense that. She spent time with us. She walked with us and told us stories, she slipped us the occasional small sherry! She never lost her sense of wonder, and that magic was shared just as strongly with the next generation of Walshs, her gran nieces and nephews.
Rita valued nature. She liked nothing more than taking off to explore the wilds of Kerry and West Cork, off to her beloved Glengarrif. Rita was an adventurer. The journey was as important as the destination. Last night Orla told us of one particular journey that she made to Ballinskelligs with Rita that took nine hours, instead of the usual two and a half. Rita did stop to smell the roses, and to have picnics and to pop into Harringtons, or Molly Darcys, or any other interesting looking spot along the road. Rita loved to spend time in the garden and was never happier than sitting with David and Eilish in their beautiful gardens in Ballinlough.
But above all other things, Rita valued people. All people. She loved up close, hand-holding conversations. She valued family. She was a devoted daughter to her parents Tom and Catherine. She and Mum Walsh were two halves of the same coin. She was a beloved sister to her brothers, John, David, Tom and Michael. She loved John’s jazz and David’s gardens. She took great pleasure in her weekly Sunday evening visits with Tom. She shared a special bond with Michael, whose relationship was a two way street of love and support throughout their lives. She was an organic and integral part of all our lives. She had a talent for sensing need and then going there. Like the Little Dutch Boy of the Walsh family – wherever she felt a hole might appear she went to hold the wall. She did it for my siblings and I during a time of need in our childhood, she did it for our aunt Helen after Uncle John died, and then again for John and Helen’s beautiful family when Helen passed. She didn’t skirt the peripheries of our needs, she rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in.
Rita inspired us all. She truly touched everyone she encountered. Even in her last weeks and her time in Cork Maternity Hospital, through her pain, her beauty and good humor shone. Our cousin David, stuck out in the Middle East right now, had promised to bring her back a handsome sheikh on his return. The day before she died, Rita joked that though she was still open to the sheikh idea, she had concerns about her current ability to get up on a camel! When her consultant, Dr Hewitt, shared the news that the outlook for Rita was not good, he had tears in his eyes, as did all her nurses. They said she was a true lady.
As my sister Audrey and I raced across the Atlantic attempting to say goodbye, Rita told the family that she really didn’t want us to see her like this. Independent as always, she was gone before we got there.
Every member of the Walsh family is grateful to Nollaig, who sensing there was a weakness in the wall, went to be by Rita’s side early Tuesday morning, and was with her as she went to join her angels. So loved was Rita, that the wonderful staff of CMH allowed her to lie in her hospital bed for the day, until Audrey, Roddy and I could come say our goodbyes there, all the while the Walsh family keeping vigil by her side, never leaving her alone, not even for a minute.
Although she never married and never had children of her own, by virtue of her bright and loving spirit, Rita had family, lots of family. She was loved deeply, she continues to be loved. She lived a beautiful and successful life. And though we will all miss her greatly, as my Uncle Tom said to me last night, at least now she doesn’t have to grow old.