|Winnifred "Bunnie" (Keelan) McCorkle, July 18th 1923-May 4th 2012|
I’ve always known that there would come two Memorial Days, more difficult than all the others. One of them has come. My hands shook as I signed for the parcel on Wednesday, a parcel that contained my mother’s “Celebration of Life” program, a DVD of pictures made for the Memorial, three-thousand miles away, a beautiful note card from my eldest sister, and my mother’s wedding band. Both sisters who took such loving care of my mother felt it should come to me, with my father’s blessing. It slipped onto middle finger of my left hand, warm and heavy with memories.
Do we all feel like lost children when our mothers pass? I am heartbroken, even as I rejoice that she has been released from the dementia that took her from us in pieces. As I looked through all the pictures on the DVD, I kept hearing her last words to me, “I love you too, darling,” said over the phone, last year. In the end, no matter the family sturm und drung, that’s what it comes down to. We come from love, we regenerate love with life, and we return to love. That’s the truth I’ve found, in over fifty-six years of living this messy, incredible life, and being my mother’s daugher.
But before we knew her as “Mum” she was a corporal in the Women’s Air Force, in England. It was the second “war to end all wars” and violence crossed the Channel to her very home shores. She lived through the London bombings, something she never talked much about. I have three pictures of her in uniform, one was coloured by her sister, Paddy. She did everything from making beds and First-Aid, to driving trucks. The world was mad, and every pair of hands, needed.
She cooked scrambled eggs, one early morning, for a young pilot who had just returned from a bombing mission. He was a handsome devil, and it wasn’t long before they fell in love. Who wouldn’t fall in love with this vivacious young woman, who loved to laugh and dance? He lived up to his wartime nickname of Lucky when he was able to span her eighteen-inch waist with his hands! They kicked up their heels, on the edge of disaster.
I protest against those who would make war as business, because I’m a Royal Air Force brat…and every soul in uniform is my family, deserving more for their willingness to put lives on the line. I send honour, respect, gratitude and love to all those fallen in battle. There are so many souls to thank, for a lot of the world’s freedom, but this year I walk my labyrinth, wearing my mother’s wedding band, and the only name I will be able to say is, Corporal Winnifred “Bunnie” Keelan. May you dance amongst the stars, with all the good lads and lassies, to the swing-time of Creation.
I love you, Mum.