Jean was out before dawn on Easter Sunday morning and down to the sea at Clontarf where an ecumenical service was held, with Dublin Bay and a rather cloudy sunrise in the background. Later that day, she cooked a good Easter dinner and invited friends. As one could not come, Jean wrapped a plated meal in tea towels and took it ‘round to her in a basket.
On her return Jean and I enjoyed our own meal at her old family-home kitchen table, while catching up on what had been an eventful year for both of us. Meantime we put to rights many plans (our own as well as those of others), friends, houses, politics, travel, gardens, students, church, clothes, arts and world-stage issues such as hunger and violence. Towards the end of this considerable task, another international friend rang and I listened, filling the dishwasher, while Jean helped him also, to formulate on-going professional and family plans.
Finally she waved me off with my large Dunnes Stores bag of donations. As I drove home across the damp and sleepy city, I reflected that it is such times that keep the world going ‘round really. Such are the private spaces forever unrecorded in the ‘sweep’ of history. And historic things are happening today in Ireland and the world.
Professor Lucy McDiarmid has studied some behind-the-scenes spaces and how they accompanied and maybe shaped the seismic public events around the 1916 rebellion. Just as we are invited nightly at present, to expand our knowledge of what actually took place on the microcosmic world of the Titanic.
But McDiarmid’s examples are even closer to home, as she explores some dynamics within two families in the shadow of the rebellion in Dublin. As she points out, women often viewed such events with different eyes. The expediency of installing cooking and sleeping facilities inside the GPO did not escape them and a wealth of other life and family-sustaining activities, detailed in McDiarmid’s study: ‘1916 and Very Private Places: the accounts of Geraldine Plunkett Dillon and Mary Hamilton Norway’.
Today we are more aware of the importance of her/story as well as his/tory. And what of the activities and observations of the women disciples of Jesus after the Resurrection. What they did and thought makes for intriguing conjecture; and were they like Irish women in times of trouble, able and willing to slip through danger, to bring good and necessary news? Mary Magdalen was expressly commissioned to, “Go and tell…” Searching by the women seems to have been fearless and persistent in their efforts to find out what had actually happened. We may ask too if they were first to grasp the significance of the Resurrection for all time and for eternity?
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Sr Kathleen Keane
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