Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dr Garret FitzGerald R.I.P.

Today I received the sad news of the death of Dr Garret FitzGerald. He was the former Taoiseach of Ireland. The equivalent of the President or Prime Minister for those who are not Irish. He was often referred to as "Garret the Good" and was known as one of the few genuinely honest men of Irish politics.

The reason that his death has left me so sad is that I had the honour of working for him in his family home as a newly qualified nurse. I shouldn't really say I worked for him because in the months that I spent with him in his home I was treated as part of their extended family. The first day I turned up to work in my official white dress, I was then politely told there was no need for that and it would be better if I just wore normal clothes and looked like I was visiting. The next day my lunch box was spotted and I was told "There'll be no more of that sandwich nonsense" I was to eat whatever they were eating. Over the following months I became their regular night nurse and turned up each evening and participated in whatever the family were doing.

Dr FitzGerald had a love of history and taught me a respect for tradition and storytelling. I remember one evening setting the table for an important visitor and he told me the history of every piece of crockery and silverware as we lay them out together. I held an item and studied it, a mahogany and silver shallow coaster. He was speechless that I had no clue what it was and he explained that it was to sit the wine bottle in during a meal. The next day I went for a wedding dress fitting and passed a small antique shop in the backstreet's of Dublin. There in the window was a pair of similar coasters. I stopped and looked closely through the glass then pointed them out to my mum. "Do you have any idea what they are?" She didn't and I delighted in telling her something I knew and she didn't!  When I returned to the FitzGerald house that evening I told my story with glee and Dr FitzGerald's eyes twinkled as he nodded and praised me like a teacher would a student. He questioned where exactly the antique shop was and without me knowing he sent someone looking for it and bought the two coasters for me as a wedding present. They also gave me money with which I bought a set of silver candlesticks. I promised him that when I laid the table for special occasions I would tell whoever was setting the table with me the story behind my "FitzGerald candlesticks" and silver wine coasters.

And so Dr FitzGerald, tonight, here in Australia I remember you. I set the table for dinner with my family and even though it was mid week we got out the FitzGerald candlesticks and ate our dinner by candlelight as I told my three kids the wonderful memories I have of those months spent with you and your family.

You taught me many things.
A respect for my elders, a respect for fine things and for tradition and story telling.
I hope you know how much you were loved.
I hope you know the impact you had on the people of Ireland.
I hope you know you are remembered.


4 comments - click here to leave your comment:

  1. A touching and beautiful tribute! It was fortunate you were able to spend that time with him and his family and share the memories with your family. He sounds like the kind of person I would have loved to have spent time with. My thoughts are with you.

  2. So touching Gina! I am sure Dr Fitzgerald felt the same about that nurse that came to his home every night! I am sorry you are mourning the loss of such a friend.

  3. Truly a wonderful man and family .. How special your candlesticks are and with very special memories ♥

  4. A lovely and moving story. When I die I would like to be remembered with such respect and affection.