On Thursday 16th July last, a customer of ours by the name of Eileen, passed away. Eileen was no stranger to us, and had been a regular customer for a long time. For a woman well into her 80’s, she had a razor sharp mind, a quick tongue and until about six weeks before her death, she had been in good health. If she had an appointment for a future date, she could tell you where it was, who it was with and what time it was at! Eileen’s husband passed away 20 years previously, and I think she liked to call in to the shop for company; perhaps she was a little lonely.
Eileen loved to talk. She was a great woman for telling stories and up until about three years ago, she had been able to work. From what I recall, she hurt herself when she fell on an escalator, and wasn’t physically able to return to work. She loved to chat about her work in the houses on ‘The Merrion Road’ or ‘Percy Place’. I remember her working for a family on the road next to ours, back in my pre-pharmacy days. I have memories of seeing Eileen wait for the bus to Pearse Street at 4pm each evening, as I returned home for school: I had no idea who she was or where she lived, it was only when I started working in the shop, did the penny drop.
She loved to talk about the families she worked for. She had no children of her own, but reared others, and could remember all their birthdays and significant events, as though they were her own.
Eileen’s other love was baking, and she was exceptional at it. No chef in the world could hold a candle to some of Eileen’s authentic home-made creations. Every Christmas she must have made about 20 cakes, and every year she would swear it was the last year she was doing so many. But every year, she did them. She spoiled the girls in the shop with her regular gift of cakes, and my own Mother in Law was especially fond of her Coffee Cake. If there was a family event on the cards, I would be sure to put in an order with Eileen. It was never a problem, and they were always delicious. I found it to be a fitting tribute during her funeral service, when one of the prayers gave thanks to Eileen for her generosity, and ‘all her lovely cakes and treats.’
I went to visit Eileen a couple of days before she died. She looked so small in the hospital bed as she struggled for breath. She asked me if I had brought her a cough bottle, and when I told her I hadn’t brought one with me, she asked me to speak to my Dad about which one she should take. This floored me, as Dad passed away in 1988. When I heard about her death, I was glad I had taken the time to go and visit her. She was very determined to stay out of hospital, but when it couldn’t be avoided any longer, I knew it was near the end for her. Eileen would never have accepted life in a hospital or nursing home setting, and it was a release for her that she didn’t linger.
It saddens me when a customer like Eileen passes away. It’s another link to my late father, and to my late Uncle Joe who ran the hardware shop, gone. Life goes on I know, but because my family have such a history on Pearse street, it affects me personally. Eileen was an example to us all to stand up, speak out and live life. In a previous blog, I wrote about the lessons we learn from our patients. Eileen spoke her mind, gave without thinking of herself and lived life according to her terms. Another great example we can learn from. She will be missed, and may she rest in peace.