When I got back to the parish some weeks ago I was conscious that Bernadette was nowhere to be seen, soon I learned that she had been unwell and not able to get out. I went to visit her about a week after getting back and found her most unwell but protesting of course the opposite, I was able to alert Doctor McCann who on visiting her immediately hospitalised her, Bernadette would not return to her home thereafter and the weeks and days saw her grow weaker but at least she was being cared for there which was a great consolation to all. It will not surprise you that she confided in those last days that she was planning an escape, a great escape, signing herself out and getting home. That was never to be the case, although it makes you smile the thought of Bernadette escaping in the dead of night, springing her release. But this was not be the case she was on an journey that was pointing one way, a few days before her death she received holy communion, a few weeks previously she had received the last sacraments. Her mind and heart and soul were prepared for what lay ahead.
When Marie told me that Bernadette had died I was very sad to hear it. But it made me smile too trust Bernadette to die on a Good Friday, the rest of us will die in the dead of Winter on November 13th, June 5th, a date of no significance but not Bernadette for her to leave this world, it had to be one of the greatest feasts in heaven and earth. Added to this to have her funeral and to be buried in the Easter Octave. It is so Bernadette…she has gone in a Jubilee year, died on a Good Friday and buried in the Easter Octave, born on an Easter Sunday and cremated today, the day of her birthday..... she got all the graces going.
The Church especially during Holy Week and Easter marks the days of Christ suffering and the days of his death and rising. These are not just days to mark, but the very reality of the Church, our lives are united to the mystery of death and rising through our baptism. To be baptised is to enter even more into that mystery of Christ. It is not just to believe in something, to be attracted to it, but it is to be united to that mystery. In her life over the last few years there was plenty of suffering for Bernadette, plenty of struggles, plenty of ill health. But she was the kind of person who made little of it and marched on. In a quiet way she carried the cross. Now she can lay it down, now she doesn’t have to bear it any longer, now she is not pinned down by it but now there is resurrection, now there is the joy of being set free, now there is the end of the journey, now there is peace and contentment where all the knots are loosened, the great escape that she planned is realised, now there is peace.
All through her life she had that strong faith which the second reading speaks of, not just a faith for sunny days and when things were going well. It was a strong faith that was strengthened over her life and that she had received from her parents and was nurtured in her family home. The Gospel today finds Mary speaking to Jesus about faith and it is clear she believes in him too. That conversation that went on throughout Bernadette’s life, she likewise all through her life and especially the end could answer strongly with a clear mind and true heart, that she truly believed.
This church and parish were always important to her and it was in many ways the centre of her faith. She had her seat which sat in, on later years beside Mary – heaven help anyone who should stray unknowingly into that seat.
She was blessed with a very cheerful nature, a sunny side to her. She made light of things and loved banter and kind of nonsense talk. She always liked news but never called it gossip. She had that Irish thing going where she would ask the question but knew the answer. She often tried to stay away from serious things especially when it involved herself, she would deflect the conversation and change the subject, guiding it away from things she really didn’t want to talk about. She also had a stubborn side when she didn’t want to do anything, the heels or as was her case the high heels were dug in.
She often used to say to me when we spoke, where would we be without our faith. When she said those words they often used to leave a deep impression on me. They spoke of hard times which she had been through which her faith had made sense to her but had brought her great consolation. They spoke about her faith in which she had been tested by things that life could throw and she didn’t give up. They spoke about faith which was a light for her footsteps through life. These words, where would we be without our faith were themselves both a statement of her faith and things that she had lived.
Bernadette was born on 1st April 1945. She was the second youngest of 9 children only 2 remain of the family Philiomena and Mary. Her parents were from Ishkaheen/Burnfoot and Muff in Donegal. They came in 1930s worked on farms in Carmyle and Bargeddie and eventually the father was a master ploughman at Newton farm. The family eventually lived in the Circuit, Bernadette attended schools at St C and St Br. Her working life saw her at the co-op, the Hoover and as a carer for many years at Walker house where she excelled, greatly liked by her work colleuges and the people she cared for. She married Bill Quigley on 17th January 1970, he was an only son brought up in Westburn and for a number of years suffered ill health. As a couple they stayed at Ben More Tower and then eventually moved to be with Bernadette’s father when her mother died in the family house at Keirs Walk. She was very family minded and was in regular contact with family members and their families too. Conversations on phones, meeting up, visits to her relatives were all part of her life.
Everyone was glad to see her in hospital, she was the only one that was not glad to be there. She talked about many things over her time there. Strangely she spoke about having a camper van and travelling to far away places in Scotland. In truth she would never be able to do this, in actual fact she was preparing for another more important journey in her life, the journey to God. Se was well prepared for this fortified by prayer and the sacraments.
We will all miss Bernadette very much, she has been a part of all our lives and we will miss her kindly ways and generous spirit.
We are not afraid for her she is in God’s loving hands. If the last years of her life were clouded by worries and ill health, all of that is over. After the tomb there is resurrection, after the cross there is joy, after the night there is day.
Bernadette may God bless you with his peace. May he reward you with his eternal blessings. May you know the joy of the child who returns to his Father’s house. May the everlasting God take you to himself and may you know the true joy of this Easter Octave.