The letter I wish I'd sent
Dear Aunt Theresa,
I wish I had written this letter many years ago. I want to thank you for all the fun and excitement your visits gave to my sisters and myself each year.
We thought you were beautiful with your long auburn hair and pretty summer dresses. Your stylish handbags full of lipstick, powder and perfume.
You were always ready to play games, dance and listen to music with us. I was so proud to have you as my godmother, especially when you reminded me how you dressed me in white lace and brought me to the church by pony and trap on Christmas Eve. I was two days old.
I will never forget the summer's day you asked me to go to the village shop for groceries. You wrote the list and I put it and your money into my coat pocket. I felt so special being allowed to shop and ride on your new Raleigh bicycle.
Mrs Raftery carefully packed my bag and placed the gateau and big brown paper bag of Mikado biscuits on top. My friend Winnie always had Mikado biscuits for her birthday party. She called them Mick-A-Doos. The shopping bagful hung on the handlebars.
I was doing quite well until I cycled down the dusty road heading to our house. I never saw that pothole until myself, bicycle and groceries went head first into the briars and nettles. Although not hurt, I was badly shaken.
I retrieved the cake but I had to leave some of the crushed biscuits to the birds. All I could think was how was I going to explain half a brown bag of crushed biscuits? You must have guessed I had fallen off your bicycle.
I waited for a good telling off. Instead you sat me down and asked what would I like for my birthday. I was so happy I had never been asked what I wanted before.
A doll, I said, I do not have a doll.
Then I will send you a doll, was your promise. You went back to London and a month later to the delight of our parents and a big surprise to us, you had a lovely baby boy.
The weeks passed slowly. We met postman Pat every morning on our way to school. "No post for you girls today," was the usual greeting.
Had my godmother forgotten my birthday was all I could think of? Then it arrived, a parcel addressed to me. I carefully untied the brown paper and string to find the cutest pink cuddly doll I had ever seen. We named her Rosie and she gave us hours of pleasure.
Rosie did not have curly hair and eyes that closed, but we loved her smiling plastic face. We shared her with Winnie and it did not matter that her cot was a shoebox or her bedclothes were made from headscarves. We knitted hats and dresses and to us she looked like a princess.
It's amazing - Rosie still survives somewhere in the attic. Once or twice I have opened that handbag and when she smiles out at me, memories of those happy days return.
There are many gifts and presents that I will be ever grateful for. Like that lovely pair of 'hornpipe' shoes. I was the envy of my confirmation class. And that pretty new dress for my Primary Cert Exam.
But life is not fair. And on that fine summer's day while riding your moped the sun got in your eyes. Your helmet slipped, that was what caused the accident.
I am taking this opportunity to thank you for everything and say sorry about the biscuits and cake.
May God hold you in the palm of his hand until we meet again.
Your loving godchild
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All the years that have passed and yet it's only now that I am thinking, "If only". With three sisters and two brothers, my school years were difficult, and I was not brainy.
At secondary school, after just about every class, all the teachers would say: "Why aren't you like your sister? You're wasting our time.''
Another time we had a cookery class. We were taking scones out of the oven when the nun slapped my hand until the wooden spoon broke, saying: "Next time you won't forget to use oven gloves."
When Inter Cert came - now they call it Junior Cert - I knew in my head that all I ever wanted to do was hairdressing; of course, I failed my Inter Cert - can't believe I just said that, but yes.
So I went to chat with my parents and told them I was leaving school to do hairdressing, as I had been offered an apprenticeship. They were not impressed as a Leaving Certificate was not required.
I trained, qualified and opened my own salon; got married. I am widowed now, with a brilliant son, but Parkinson's invited itself into my life. For me this was a major setback as I had to give up hairdressing.
So does it come back to school and if only I had made more of an effort?
That's life, I guess; we live and learn.
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You are 30 years old this month. I would love to have met you and known you, written you cards and sent you gifts for all your milestone birthdays - for your wedding day perhaps, maybe even your college graduation. I would love to have attended your First Communion and Confirmation celebrations, as I have done for all of my other nieces and nephews. I don't have any photos of you. I don't have any of your little school drawings or cards you might have sent me, your auntie, stored away to surprise you when you got older.
You see, you were about two months old when your mother, my sister, spoke of your existence. As she was not in a relationship at the time, this news was met by us with shock, horror, shame, panic, guilt and goodness knows how many other feelings which went unspoken.
Your mother said that she was not ready for a baby and so had an abortion planned for the following week. Your uncles and aunts and grandparents on your mother's side discussed other possible solutions. Maybe your mother could have moved to work in England, continued with her pregnancy and have you adopted there? But her mind was made up and everything was organised, with the help of a friend who would accompany her on what must have been a dreadful mission. Nobody else need ever know.
You were totally innocent in all of this and I am sure that your grandparents, uncles and aunts on your mother's side would have loved and welcomed their first grandchild, niece or nephew. A childless couple would have loved you. Perhaps your father and his family would have welcomed and loved you, but they never knew of your existence. You were conceived following a drunken one-night stand. You had no choice in all of this.
Even now, 30 years later, my heart (your auntie's heart) is thumping as I write this.
I can never forget the weekend that your mother travelled to England. At home, my brothers, sisters and parents waited for a phone call to hear that your mother was okay after the abortion. And then, that was it. Never a word mentioned about you again.
Years later, unable to deal with you having been aborted, I gave you a name, in a little private ceremony, in my own heart. I don't know if you were my niece or nephew, but I gave you a name that could be used for either gender. I have never forgotten you.
As your aunt, I have suffered. I am sure that the rest of my family has suffered, too, but there has been a conspiracy of silence among us about your existence. I cannot imagine how much your mother must have suffered and must still suffer. Judging by the amount of life and health issues that she has endured, and still endures, I'm sure it must be enormous.
Everyone knows that there are more dignified and compassionate solutions for mothers and babies alike. So, too, does the abortion industry, whose only interest is in amassing huge fortunes from vulnerable women.
But I am happy that you have lived so strongly in my heart, that you have inspired me to write this so that others might think twice about the dilemma our country is now facing and make the only decent choice.
Alas, you had no choice.
How I would love to have written to you for the past 30 years. But I hope that his letter will make up for all the letters I sadly wish that I had been able to send.
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"Mother you had me but I never had you, I wanted you, you didn't want me"
This extract from John Lennon's song Mother encapsulates my lifetime yearning for you. For your love, your emotional bond and your maternal nurturing. My records show that in 1951, at two years of age, I was placed in a Wicklow orphanage, another in Blackrock and finally two boarding schools up to the age of 18.
Throughout those years, I felt very insecure, lacking in confidence and emotionally lost. One night, at the age of 13, I broke down, crying hysterically in a dormitory full of other boys. I wanted to see you so much.
When the time came to finally walk out of those industrial schools, I felt my first bit of freedom - but not in a good way. I railed against the establishment, shunned good job prospects, had deep-rooted anger issues and basically went down the road of self-destruction.
Throughout my life I wanted to hate you but couldn't bring myself to cross that line. When a distant relative was informed by the police in England that you had passed away at 42 years of age in 1971, I was devastated and my emotions were in turmoil.
After more than a decade of this self-destructive lifestyle, I sensed another mother Mary reaching out to me, Mary, the Mother of God. I latched on to this connection and to this day my bond with this beautiful vision has become stronger than ever. She has guided me on the straight and narrow.
I took up several personal development courses and exercises to build up my low self-esteem. The combination of all this has led me to a better place.
But to you, my birth mother, there is one thing I have to do as I approach my 70th birthday.
From today I am letting go of this poisonous and bitter resentment towards you before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
Mother, I forgive you unconditionally. Rest in peace.
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Dear Pillar of Society,
You have eroded my well-qualified, hard-working daughter for the past decade, as her boss. How did you change from a pleasant colleague into such a bully? She succeeded so well in every task you presented her with.
Your jealousy made you continue your rampage. As soon as her students obtained top results, you removed her from that subject, as well as preventing her continuing as year head.
No wonder jealousy is one of the deadliest sins - you only had a basic qualification.
Forgiveness is a process. I am only in the early stages as I try to practise "Judge no person until you walk a mile in their moccasins". Some day I will forgive you, as I try to help rebuild my daughter's life - 'Humpty Dumpty' comes to mind.
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