The late Maureen Rowley
Mrs Maureen Rowley of Hyde Street, Mohill, died on Tuesday, February 2, following a short illness. She was a loving mother, a wonderful grandmother, a generous neighbour and an outstanding and forgiving friend to many who had the privilege of knowing her.
Maureen was from Ballyconnell, County Cavan, and in Bawnboy Technical School she received a quality education in domestic science, equipping her with skills that she later put at the service of her family and the wider community.
Following her marriage to Alf Rowley she came to live in Mohill town where the couple raised five children. Maureen was busy with her duties as a wife and mother, but she also found time to keep herself in good shape, joining one of the badminton teams in the Hunt Memorial Hall, where she helped them to win many titles.
As well as that, she regularly entered competitions at Mohill’s annual Agricultural Show, bringing honour to herself and in later years encouraging her grandchildren to take part too.
Maureen was a first class cook. My late father, who ran a butcher’s shop down the street from Maureen’s home, said that she could take a lamb’s shank and within a matter of hours she would produce a dinner fit for a king.
She also baked apple tarts, rhubarb tarts, pastries and cakes for every occasion, and there are several people in the greater Mohill area whose baptisms, birthdays, weddings, holy communions and confirmations were crowned by her gift of a commemorative cake.
Maureen was also generous towards the local parish church, giving a long service with the Altar Society and excelling in that work, especially at Christmas time, when the church was decked out in beautiful floral arrangements.
After several decades at that ministry, old age finally caught up with her and she had to retire. I was at Mass that Christmas Eve when Father Murphy publicly thanked her for her outstanding service. With that, the congregation burst into a loud and sustained applause as a token of their appreciation.
Maureen also had a soft spot for any neighbours in difficulty, regularly inviting one of them to her home for Christmas dinners, and also cooking a Sunday dinner for a vulnerable neighbour whose elderly mother, as she was dying, had asked Maureen to keep an eye out for his welfare.
By the life that she led, Maureen bore witness to the heights and depths that an honest Christian life can reach. One of her children has Down Syndrome, and after an initial shock at that diagnosis the couple shouldered the daily tasks of raising that girl, and indeed all of their family, with dignity and love.
Alf died in the late 1990s. He and Maureen had only one son, Cormac, and when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness around six years ago, his own wife Brenda and their children, as well as Maureen and her family, rallied round to do everything possible for him. I spoke to Maureen at his wake, and I came away with an impression that despite her heartbreak, she was enveloped by a peace that came from another world.
Afterwards I pondered on the fact that Maureen had a great attachment to Our Blessed Lady, and I wondered if Mary had comforted her in hidden ways. For just as Mary had stood at the foot of the Cross when her only son was dying, Maureen too had stood by another cross, where she bore witness to her love for her only son as he was passing. Mary had gone ahead, both in love and in suffering, and with an uncanny precision the ever faithful Maureen had followed in Mary’s footsteps.
There were also many happy days in the lives of Alf and Maureen. They saw one of their daughters win a prestigious Gold Medal on graduating from one of Ireland’s leading schools of nursing, while another daughter, a highly qualified oncology nurse, was featured on TV and in newspapers the length and breadth of the country as the poster girl for Ireland’s Daffodil Day.
A third daughter proved her solicitude for her elderly mother whenever Maureen had to attend hospital appointments. The daughter would discreetly phone me when Maureen was on her way home from the hospital, asking me to turn on the heat in Maureen’s house, so that it would be crisp and cosy by the time she arrived home.
Maureen appeared on the Late Late Show in the run up to Christmas one year, after the same daughter had written to Ryan Tubridy, and she was taken by surprise when another daughter, who had been resident with her family in the US, walked into the RTE studio with her four handsome sons. It was a Christmas gift with a difference.
I often wonder if God might occasionally send messages of appreciation to those of his friends who accept a heavy cross out of their love for him, and to prove my point I will tell you this story about Maureen. Among her children were four daughters and only one son, but among her grandchildren there were nine boys and no girls. Maureen told me that it looked like she would have no granddaughters at all. Then we heard that there was something stirring.
A tenth grandchild was on the way, and that child turned out to be a girl. Now, Maureen adored all of her grandchildren, but she was thrilled, tickled almost, that at the final throw of the dice God had sent her such an adorable granddaughter.
I count myself among the many local people who will miss Maureen Rowley dearly, but I also believe that when we regain our composure we will realise that we had the privilege of knowing someone who was outstanding in her faithful love for God and her merciful love for others.
May she rest in the peace that only God can give, and may her family take consolation from these words of Jesus, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”