Sunday, 13 November 2011


'I'm dying': Nuala O'Faolain and the interview she wanted to do

"NUALA O’FAOLAIN rang me in March 2008 to arrange a lunch – we were good friends and had a running gag about birthday lunches, which could be had in any month of the year or in many months of the year. We met the following Monday in a busy restaurant in Dublin. She came in using a walking stick and dragging her leg a bit. Other than that, she looked terrific.
Presuming she had sprained her ankle, I asked her what had happened. Her reply, in its directness, was classic Nuala: “I’m dying. I have cancer in my lungs, tumours in my brain, probably elsewhere too. It has metastasised. I will take radiation but not chemotherapy.”
Bam. I felt disbelief, horror. And a great desire that this was some awful, awful mistake. It took several minutes to sink in.
I first met Nuala O’Faolain when she was a contributor to a radio programme about convent education on RTÉ’s Women Today. This must have been in the mid-1970s. Unusually, the programme was prerecorded in the producer’s apartment, so we had some time before and after the interview to get to know each other.
Nuala was brilliant on that programme. It was the first time I experienced close up her unique blend of articulacy and hilarity. We received many letters afterwards, one man writing to say that we had nearly caused him to crash his car into a tree due to the tears of laughter streaming down his face.
We became close friends and occasional colleagues, both of us working on RTÉ’s The Women’s Programme."
For full interview click on the above link

Many of us have had family and friends pass from this dreaded disease. I certainly have, as recently as Oct 29. Among many others, I also farewelled my beloved Mother some 29 years ago, the years go, the pain lingers. The words I remember most from that wonderful, courageous, inspiring woman, and there were so many, especially in the last few weeks she shared with us, were "I am blessed.."
I couldn't breathe for a moment.... how could she be blessed? I certainly didn't feel blessed....I was trying to support my father, my younger brother, my husband, my devastated young children, my mother's sisters and brother, so many others who loved and cared for this amazing lady, who had ever welcoming arms, a ready laugh, and a way of sharing nothing so that all felt as if they had been given the world... blessed???
"Yes, I am blessed, for I have had the chance to say the words I always meant to, and to say farewell, not goodbye, but fare well... till we meet again." Tears flowed freely, as they did when reading about another incredible woman, Nuala O'Faolain. 
 I suspect she and my mother, born of a strong Irish woman from Clare, would share a cuppa, a hug and lots of words... long may they chat.

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