It is easy sometimes to focus on the end of a loved one's life. You think of them as an old person, loving but frail. These are often the final memories we have of our parents, in particular, because we don't really take on board their younger personas, as we weren't really around that much to share in them.
"Mam and Dad" was what my sister, brother and I called them as we grew up in Limerick City in the southwest of Ireland.
Dad was Engineering Superintendent for the southwest region of the phone company and the accolades that he earned along a lengthy career included patented invention, superb handling of the Nixon visit, and the undying admiration of his friends and colleagues. Outside of the job, he was a fixer. Not in the mafia sense, but in the sense of a man that became the go-to person for almost anything. He developed solutions for a myriad of technical problems, and a solver of an endless stream of personal problems for family and friends alike. The hole that was left in so many lives when he died was frankly immeasurable and the reverence with which he is still spoken about in so many circles is sore testament to his legacy.
Mam was first and foremost mother to the three of us and a better matriarch a family is unlikely to have had. But she was also a seriously astute thinker and a motivated person on many political issues. Her role as one of the founders of the national organization for abused women earned her a person of the year award that stood proudly in the living room for the duration of her life. Her love of music, culture, and the written word meant that in many ways, our home felt like a library with music piped throughout the hallways and the smells of mouth-watering food emanating from the kitchen,.
Both of them had a devout interest in the natural world and they in turn nurtured that within me. They applauded every simple capture of my early days of photography ... the kind of applause good parents do for an ugly-duckling child. And this applause still echoes in my heart every time I take a shot that I feel they might be proud of.