Julie Helen: Family and the legacy we leave behind...

As her grandfather's first anniversary approaches Julie Helen  reflects on the importance of family and the legacy we leave when we die
Julie Helen: Family and the legacy we leave behind...

What legacy do we leave behind, asks Julie Helen in her weekly column. Picture; Stock

I AM grateful that a long weekend is coming. My grandfather’s first anniversary is coming up this weekend so it will mean that next weekend I will have the opportunity to be with my cousins in Tipperary to remember him together.

A memorial card of him came in the door this week. He was in his 80s and had fought stomach cancer, and got a good few years of good quality life out of not having a stomach and just ploughing on regardless.

When I think of him, I remember him as the man who adored my grandmother so much that he married her after a whirlwind courtship of only a matter of weeks, even though she was the widow of his first cousin who already had two children. 

I will always be thankful that he stepped into my grandmother’s grief and showed her such incredible love.

That love filtered naturally to my mum and my uncle and they were joined in the following years by two more siblings. Now all four have their own kids, and Ricky, our little boy, is the only member of a generation of great grandchildren to arrive so far, and grandad John was so proud of him.

My cousin Aoife is now living in John’s house just up the laneway from her own house and has spruced it up so nicely, it has taken on a new lease of life while keeping its welcoming spirit which has enveloped me my whole life. As I was sitting at the table joining Aoife and her younger sister Aine for a scrumptious curry, Aoife had prepared for my evening visit recently, I couldn’t help but think how proud our gran Maria would be to think we were all grown ups together around their table.

Aine has no memory of gran as she was only a baby when gran died suddenly in 2004. Aoife has a good memory as she was a few years older and it is so nice to reminisce about what she used do and say and how as a couple they shared a love stronger than most fairytales.

Now that both grandparents of one side of my family are no longer with us, it has really made me think about what legacy really is and what we leave behind when we depart earth -no matter what we believe on a religious front. 

What John and Maria gave us all was a strong sense of family and sticking together. Both had enviable characters and a sense of humour which matched each other perfectly.

When I think of them, I can hear each one laugh as they regaled us with their stories from the local village or school. It is the smaller, material things that hold the lovely childhood memories and the days we spent together that we treasure.

Legacy is really about values, who are we as people and how we treat others on a daily basis. My grandparents were lovely people who helped anyone they could and took pride in their family and in their work as a farmer and a teacher and school principal.

I am still hearing stories from neighbours of how kind they were, and it is lovely to see how respected they were beyond the arms of our own family. If I am ever unsure what to do or say, I find myself thinking of them and what they may have done in the same situation. I feel lucky to have the memories and to know I am building on their legacy every day.

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