THE gentle nature and unassuming manner of the late Mary Cowman née Swift has been fondly remembered by all who knew her, following her death last month, on June 22. Mary died as she had always lived, surrounded by the family she loved so dearly.
As a young child in Tycor Avenue, Mary was affectionately known at home as ‘I’ll tell me Daddy’. The walls of their two bedroom house were filled with stories and fun as Mary and her siblings grew up with their parents Alice and James Swift. When she started her first job, she didn’t have far to go, as she started work across the road in the Jute Factory, where she remained until she married her husband, Dan.
Their life together was filled with happiness and love, which only increased with the addition of their four children. Their home on Willow Terrace in Lisduggan was where Mary remained for the rest of her life.
The house was at the epicentre of everything that was most important in Mary’s life: it was close enough to the schools so that when her children came home for lunch each day, a hot dinner was always ready at 1pm; it was also close enough to St. Paul’s Church where Mary went every single day, before a visit to Lisduggan Shopping Centre, and Dunphy’s Butchers. (Rumour has it that Mary was difficult to argue with when she haggled the price in the butchers!)
Mary was small in stature, and even though she married into a family of boxers, she earned the title of ‘Boss’ of the home. She had the respect of every family member, and every one of her neighbours in Lisduggan because she had a nature that was kind, generous and respectful, and that respect was always extended back to her.
Inside the Willow Terrace home, Mary created a place of solace, safety and love: along with Dan, she created a home. There were only two rules: ‘No Fighting’ and ‘No Gossiping’, a rule that was honoured when anyone came to Mary with a problem because she would never utter a word of that problem to another soul.
For her family, there was a comfort and a familiarity to the click-clacking of her knitting needles and the clink of her tea cup, her hands were never empty whether it be a cigarette or her rosary beads. Those rosary beads offered up many Novenas for neighbours, those who were struggling, or people in the community who were ill. Mary’s son Donal said there are people who may never have even known his mother, but she was praying for them because she knew they needed it.
Those prayers were a symbol of her unshakeable faith, which gave her comfort throughout her entire life. Many may remember seeing Mary on trips to Lourdes, to Medjugorje, or even when she saw the Pope in 1979.
What was significant about Mary, then and now, is that everything she did was done with love. The things she knitted were given to others, whether it be Aran jumpers, baby blankets, hats, scarves – all were given to others. Her love for her family was poured into every baking recipe she had and the result was Christmas puddings, cakes, fruit cakes, vanilla slices – she used her gifts to turn her love for others into something solid and tangible.
The family home was a sensory feast with the smell of baking, the sound of Mary’s beloved sport on television, and the sight of her smile was always present, not just on her lips but in her eyes and across her entire face.
As Mary became ill in recent times, her unfailing smile was remarked upon by her care-givers, because she smiled at anyone who came through her door. Her family in particular would like to extend thanks to the district nurse Yvonne, Mary’s carers Buky, Margaret and Bunny, the Wheelchair Association, Deirdre and all from Clannad Care. They extend a special thanks to Paula for all she did for Mary. Speaking to the Waterford News & Star, Mary’s children wanted all who helped their mother to know that “you all became part of our family and will always be in our hearts.”
Mary’s final days at home, and in the Pine Ward in UHW were made so much easier through the efforts of Dr O’Carroll and all of the staff in UHW. During what was a very difficult time, they thank Thompson’s for their professionalism and kindness and to Donna Roche who sang Mary’s favourite hymns just as she would have wanted them sung. Particular thanks go to Fr. Pat, who was so treasured by Mary and who honoured her life so beautifully during her final Mass.
It is a testament to a life well lived when you can claim to have never fallen out with a neighbour, and Mary never did. She adored and respected every one of her neighbours, friends, and especially her family, who kept her with them at home where she was surrounded by everything and everyone that she loved.
Mary is survived by her loving husband, Dan, her children Susan, Geraldine, Donal and Seamus, her sisters Josie, Noeleen and Ann, and her brothers Thomas and Francie, her daughter-in-laws Elizabeth and Catriona, and her cherished grandchildren Craig, Sarah, Ciara, Declan, Kevin, Noah, and Josh. Mary is pre-deceased by her son-in-law Johnny, her parents Alice and James, her sister Kathleen, and her brother Michael.
Mary’s month’s mind mass will be celebrated in St. Paul’s Church, on July 25 at 11.30am.