Homily of Fr Declan Shannon for the Funeral Mass of Nicky McFadden, RIP:
Memories are powerful things. They have the capacity to immortalise significant moments in our lives. For whatever reason, our minds chose to record particular memories, as if to freeze ‘a moment of time’ that we will, one day, revisit and recall. I’d like to think that our minds recall more happy memories than sad; that we remember more of the good times than the bad. But when someone we love dies, our minds almost instinctively chose to recall particular memories. Without much effort, we recall them with great affection and sometimes with great emotion.
When the sad news of Nicky McFadden’s death broke on Tuesday afternoon last; many memories were recalled, many tears were shed and many stories were told and retold.
Like a patchwork quilt, these memories while individually recalled and personally remembered, but when brought together, they tell of the rich tapestry of Nicky’s life. It is that rich tapestry that we celebrate today and it is that rich tapestry that we entrust back to God. Today, we bring our individual memories of Nicky together and we thank her for them but we also thank God for the gift of Nicky.
Her children Caren and Eoin recall their fun-loving mother; they remember their childhood days when she taught them how to bake, leaving a trail of flour in their wake! They recall the days that she got down to paint with them, when not all the paint made it to the awaiting paper! They recall the childhood memories of family holidays in the sun, packing up the Kadett and without any fear, the three of them heading off to France. They remember the great joy of playing in the great outdoors, on the beach and the fun they shared in the water.
Her sisters Gab and Aine and her aunt Baba recall their memories of Nicky, the sister and niece who loved her bit of style. With an eye for fashion and without much effort, she could mix and match from Penny’s to Brown Thomas and turn herself out impeccably. Seeing the world through rose tinted glasses, Nicky was ever the optimist and could always see the good in others, even when the rest of the world seemed to have stopped trying.
Her wide circle of loyal friends, recall their many memories of Nicky; the good friend who supported them through thick and thin. They remember the foreign holidays they shared in the sun, the place The Turkey’s were crowned their title!!! They remember Nicky and her sisters being the last to leave the beach until the summer’s sun had set. They remember the party girl who had a word for everyone and whose infectious smile endeared many to her.
Those who knew Nicky from the doctor’s surgery will recall that friendly face behind the reception; the first point of contact, the person that could spot the nervous patient and put their anxieties to rest. Those who knew her as a Counsellor, as a Senator or as a T.D. will remember the woman with a big heart who possessed that special gift of making you feel that you were the only person in the world that mattered. They will remember Nicky who took time to listen to their story, who could identify with their struggle and who could help them in their plight.
The slow onslaught of her sickness saw Nicky embrace this challenge, as she had done in the past, with all the determination and fight she could muster. Determined that Motor Neurone wasn’t going to define her, Nicky fought it with every fibre of her being but slowly accepted the gradual limitations it brought.
Surrounded by the great love of family and the loyal support of good friends, Nicky knew she was not on her own and neither was she. Even in her sickness, Nicky has left behind some incredible and precious memories.
But we are not here to just recall memories, valuable as they are. In our pain and loss, we turn to God, sometimes to ask why. Why Nicky? Why someone so young? Why someone with so much to offer?
I don’t have any answers to these whys. But let us turn to the God that Nicky believed in and to His word. The words from the Book of Wisdom give us great hope in our loss telling us, “The upright woman, though she die before her time will find rest. Length of days nor number is not the true measure of life.” We are not here to judge Nicky by how long she lived but rather by how well she tried to live. It would be a gross offence if our lives were judged solely by how long we lived; God believes not in quantity of days but in quality of living.
It is the words of Saint Paul writing to his friend Timothy in the second reading that probably best sum up Nicky’s life with these words, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” Nicky McFadden has indeed fought the good fight of life with all the determination she could muster. She has finished the race, that may not be long in terms of years but was long in terms of giving. She has surely kept the faith, right up until the last moment, when having received God’s anointing of the sick and gift of absolution, she gently ‘let go’ to God.
The Gospel that Bishop Colm read for us reminds us of what our final judgement will be like. We hear the words of Jesus himself who said, “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me”. Nicky did many deeds of kindness and goodness, decency and generosity that many of us may never know about, but God knows about. No act of kindness or goodness, decency or generosity, however small will ever escape the notice or attention of God.
I’d like to think that as Nicky was taking her last breath on Tuesday afternoon last that she heard God whisper, “Well done, Nicky, good and faithful servant. Come and see the place that I have made for you”. May all the love that Nicky shared, all the kindness that she extended to others, all the memories she has left behind and all the faith that she had in her God be met with the warm embrace of God.
Let me leave you with this reflection, that I think Nicky would want me to share with you today. These could be Nicky’s words to us today:
When I come at the end of the road
and the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloomy filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little but not too long
and not with your heads bowed low
remember the love we once shared
miss me but let me go.
For this a journey that we must all make
and each must go alone.
It’s all part of the Master’s plan
a step on the road to home.
There is no night without dawning
no winter without a spring.
And beyond death’s dark horizon
our hearts will once more sing.
For those who leave us for a while
have only gone away
out of a restless care-worn world
into a brighter brand new day.
May she rest in peace."
Father Declan Shannon delivered his homily during 12 noon Mass today in the Church of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, Coosan, Athlone, Co Westmeath in the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois.
Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert and Bishop Colm O’Reilly, retired Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, concelebrated the Funeral Mass.
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