There is such a thing as grace.
This evening, some 40 of my mother in law Alice O’Neill’s immediate family gathered in the room where she held court for so many years to mark 4 weeks from her passing with a “Month’s Mind” Mass celebrated by her and our good friend Fr. Malcolm. We ranged in age from her youngest great grand-child barely 1 to nearly 76 years of age. We piled into that small space grabbing slots on stools or cushions and, whether you had a religious bone in your body or not, you could not fail to be moved by the quiet peace that descended on the room as we followed an age old ritual. Her presence cast a soothing warmth on the gathering and I could sense her quiet smile of delight as she surveyed the crowd that gathered to remember her. In large families, even your children, their spouses and those grandchildren close at hand are enough to generate a satisfying crowd.
The occasion was doubly poignant because earlier this week we lost Mrs O’Neill’s daughter, my lovely sister-in-law Deirdre after a short but vicious illness. That is a death that is even harder to come to terms with – a young woman leaving behind a husband, 3 sons, a young daughter, 4 sisters and 5 brothers, all devastated by her loss. Dee – warm, generous, funny, colourful, loyal, free-spirited, a leader, determined, a keeper of promises – we miss you.
I know at times in the past few weeks, as we came to terms with the finality of Dee’s illness, our emotions ranged from disbelief to anger to deep sadness to numbness and a bone-rattling, chilling shock. Tonight, in that room, there was something else, a quiet acceptance, a letting go and a communal sense of love and compassion.
Afterwards we ate beef-filled pasties prepared by the sisters to their mother’s recipe, shaped like the jiaozi pot-sticker dumplings served at Chinese family get togethers – dumplings to remind you how family wrap themselves around you even when you are far away.
Shane commented to Shan earlier this week in Beijing that it had been a rotten start to the year and she replied that no, it was just a bad end to the old year. Because, as the last moon of the lunar year wanes, Chinese people across the world prepare to say farewell to the year of the dragon. The year of the snake is almost here. In our house, we are all in favour of starting the new year over.
As we wait to see if Shane and Shan’s baby will be a Dragon or a Snake, the time seemed right for me to embrace this new dimension of our family and our tiny Sino-Irish dynasty in the making. So I have been collaborating with the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival to develop a new dimension to the festival this year – A Taste of China. You can read all about it here.
Over the next few weeks, we hope to post a different recipe each day from a wide variety of restaurants around Dublin and further afield, both Chinese restaurants and Irish restaurants where the chefs are even a little bit susceptible to Asian fusion influences. First up are recipes for Stir-fried Chicken with Celery from New Millennium Restaurant in Dublin and Confit Duck Spring Rolls from Tom Walsh, Head Chef at Samphire@The Waterside.
We hope you will join in the fun and if you are a chef, restauranteur or food blogger who would like your recipe included on the Chinese New Year website, just leave a message here, a comment on my blog or DM me on Twitter @julieon.
Here in our family, we have all been changed by the events or recent weeks, in ways we don’t yet fully understand. But we owe it to the generation yet unborn to continue to nurture the multi-cultural traditions of family. And what better way to do that than through food.
春节快乐 Happy Spring Festival
There is such a thing as grace.