Eulogy for Katy

Thank you all for being here today to help my little Katy on her way to heaven. And thank you all for helping us also to celebrate her life on this earth.

Katy’s was a life of sunshine and sparkle, of fun and daring, of taking on challenges, of blazing trails. Life with Katy was about loving it, embracing it and giving it socks. It is the reason why we felt that the only way to dress today was brightly.

Who is Katy French, someone once asked? So I thought I might try to answer that by sharing with you, in the slide show produced by her sister Jill, some of the joy and love she has given to me, to her family and to her friends throughout her life.

And I don’t want to just share that with you, I want to shout out loud from the tree tops how from baby to woman this daughter of mine remained the child, – wanting and receiving, crying and laughing, giving and taking, solving problems and causing them, and always with an openness of heart and freedom of spirit. It was that love of life, that openness of heart, that childlike naturalness that intoxicated me. I could forgive Katy anything and she was always so ready to forgive me.

I read last week the article in the Times by Terry Prone. She was trying to make some sense of the Katy French phenomenon. She asked whether there was really any meaning to all of this or whether anything would change. I think she concluded that nothing would. And maybe she is right.

In a week or so something else will hit the news and many will forget our Katykins. I won’t of course. And neither will anyone in her family. For any woman to have a mother – daughter bond is meaning in itself. We have a heartfelt connection and an undying trust. We know we are there for each other for all our lives come what may. And you know, that is enough for me. That is enough for any mother.

But the wonder of Katy is that she got me to realise something else. I got to realise it through her very personal experience with the street children of Calcutta. Let me put it in her words, the article she wrote after she returned from her visit to them only a few months ago

‘It took only five days of working with GOAL to get me to appreciate the deep sense of humankind within all of them, that everyone of those homeless victims had a heart and a soul and a yearning to experience the essentials of being human, of living and loving life in some way. It is not terrifying to see or experience these sights; it is terrifying to realise that the smallest amount each one of us can give can make such a significant difference. Just like us they want a chance to live and they will rally to every opportunity we can give them.

‘It took just five days for me to truly understand that anyone who is worthy to receive his days and his nights is worthy of all else from us. And I came to the realisation that every thing we can do to assist the fallen, the destitute and the needy, no matter how big or small, could give us an inner peace in not forgetting that we all belong to each other.  Importantly, my journey to Calcutta helped me to build on my own sense of self worth. I realised that we are all here under the eyes of God to help each other, and that He doesn’t require us to succeed, only to try.

‘Mother Theresa once said, “The biggest disease is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted”. She also said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do”. I thank God that GOAL gave me the chance that day to know that. I not only learnt what a smile can do but also I came to realise that it’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving that matters – a smile, a touch, a hug, though seemingly small gestures, create endless echoes of belonging throughout these children’s lives’.

I believe that each and every one of us is in some sense a homeless victim with a heart and a soul and a yearning to experience the essentials of being human. I believe that was what Katy’s smile and sparkle gave to so many of us, mother father, sister, friend and lover. Her fight for the life she held so dearly and her eventual death got me to believe and to see even more. The hundreds of letters we received from people who never had met her, the prayers offered, the masses held, the relics brought to her bedside, the tears of the doctors and nurses who attended her, the compassion and protection of the Gardai, all of these, I believe, represented our natural human response to feeling cared for ourselves and somehow being touched by love.

To me Katy was an angel. Every mother’s daughter is an angel. Thank God I still have one other angel left by my side. But perhaps it was not Katy’s angelic love that enchanted and intoxicated. Perhaps it was our realisation that she was only human. I used to call her my little Persephone, my daughter who spent some of her time in Hades, on the dark side, whilst I, mother Demeter cried my tears to water the flowers and the trees and make everything beautiful for her return to the brightness and light. Every mother knows that is what we do. Every mother knows her daughter has strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, angels and demons. Every mother knows her child will struggle with some emotional or moral conflict here on earth as he or she has a job to do, a living to make, a life to lead. What my Katy said and felt was, ‘ Ok so lets get on with it, let’s get the show on the road, let’s not blame and let’s respect the humanity in each and everyone of us’.

Perhaps if each one of us can learn to do that just a little bit more then each one of us may succeed in a life with some meaning. Perhaps we can create a few more endless echoes of belonging.

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