Marie Sharkey, R.I.P.
On Saturday, June 24th, we celebrated the Funeral Mass of Marie Sharkey, R.I.P., in Urlaur Church. Marie, close on 97, was the oldest resident in the Urlaur area and has, for many years, been a central character in its story. In preparing for her Funeral Mass I remembered her speaking of her love of SCRABBLE and her many games with friends down through the years. I imagined her getting a few letters - maybe a D, an I another I, a T, a P, an R and an N and forming the word "INTREPID". From there I tried to put a few words around each letter. In Marie's memory and because I know her family are visitors to this blog, I thought I'd include them here.
INTREPID (Resolutely Fearless; Dauntless)
Family and their families.
“Are you all right in that house? Is it warm enough? There are fine strong men in the parish and good women. If there’s anything they can do for you. It’s an old house. Are you sure?” These were among the final words Marie spoke to me. I was visiting her in the Nursing Home and she was in the Day Room so it wasn't exactly a private conversation and I felt a little embarrassed that a woman in her late nineties was worrying about a mere child in his fifties!! Her concern was genuine, of course, and rooted in her valuing me as a priest in her parish. I mattered to her and I remain grateful for that. That's what I mean by nurturing. I'm sure many of us experienced that level of care and concern.
“The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires.”
No wonder Jesus was regarded a great teacher. He inspired people. He taught by example and “with authority”. He was what he taught. I can’t claim to know much about Marie as teacher in a classroom but I observed her as teacher in this parish. She taught “hospitality”, “community”, “respect”, “loyalty” and gauging the number of visitors she had in recent years to Ave Maria, it’s fair to say her pupils – all of us – appreciated her skills in the classroom that is LIFE.
I think it’s fair to say Marie had the respect of people in this community and in other communities with which she had contact. She’s remembered in Monasteraden, Brusna and throughout the diocese for her dedication. In the diocese, for countless years, she was associated with the Pioneer Association and was totally committed to its promotion. The symbol of the Pioneers in the Sacred Heart and it’s hardly coincidence that we brought her remains to this, her beloved church, on the Feast of The Sacred Heart. Respect is, in many ways, a mutual thing. Marie earned respect because she showed respect to God and his Creation.
That word speaks for itself. Is there one of us here today who can say that he or she has not been encouraged by Marie, not least in moments of uncertainty or anxiety? As we have been encouraged, we hear the words of Jesus, “Go yourself and do the same”
Needless to say the word “PIONEER” could have taken this spot but pilgrim includes being a pioneer. It’s about going to the places that need to be visited and named. In a culture where drink can often hold too much sway, Marie went on Pilgrimage to encourage another way. Beyond that, and the photos on her walls, tell the story far better than I ever could, she went on a pilgrimage around the world – not always to shrines or religious sites but to places that were to speak to her, of God, beauty, diversity and a bigger picture. Fr Frank Fahy of Ballintubber Abbey draws a vital distinction between a tourist and a pilgrim. He says a tourist goes to a place to see what can be seen, take some photos, enjoy the visit and come home to develop the photos and put them in an album or on display. A pilgrim goes to a place to be transformed by the experience, forever changed in the very core of oneself. I think Marie the tourist was never far removed from Marie the Pilgrim. Among the pictures on her wall was a printout of a lovely reflection …. I’ll come back to that.
We’ve heard that poem many times – a poem by Rudyard Kipling – that repeats the little word IF – if you can do difficult things, hold your head, not be over-awed, be willing to take a risk …. So it goes. It’s a poem about seeing and doing things differently but always for the better. That’s the little reflection that Marie numbered among the pieces worthy of being on her wall. As she looked at photos of places she’d visited, faces of family and friends, her eyes wandered to these words as well. The verse closes as follows:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Again the word decent could be used here and I personally experienced that decency as I’m sure did every priest who ever ministered in this parish, every child that could be named nephew or niece, every child that would have been pupil and every neighbour that might have needed a touch of kindness. Dependable is the word though. Marie was so loyal to this church and attended it as faithfully as she could and for as long as was humanly possible. It, together with The Abbey, was her second home and maybe in many ways the front door to her Eternal Home. I recall her bringing in the Chalice or the Cruets after the First Friday Mass. Her way of offering a helping hand. I recall her reading God’s Word where I now stand until she felt she could not do it justice anymore and encouraged me to ask someone younger. As she was nearly ninety at the time, there were options! It may have been easier to find someone younger but more of a challenge perhaps, to find some one more loyal - more dependable.
Marie – Resolutely Fearless, Dauntless and missed.