Monday, August 30, 2010

Monica Stokes

 Most of you will know that Monica Stokes (nee Hannagan) died around three in the morning of Thursday the 26th August, 2010. She would have been 87 in November this year. Her funeral was held at the Mosgiel Catholic Parish Church (in the old Holy Cross college) today.

The following is a tribute that Mike Crowl gave during the Requiem Mass. Two other tributes were given and will be posted here when and if permission is given. 

One of my earliest memories as a child – it must have been between the age of 3 and 4 - is of an evening at Stanley St, in the house where the Hannagan family grew up. Monica and Des lived there for the first year of their marriage [and I grew up there]. They were getting ready for what I guess must have been a fancy dress ball. Monica was dressed up like one of the ‘three little maids from school’ in The Mikado, and having a great time getting ready and putting on special make up. Monica did quite a bit of performing when she was young.

Another early memory is of the third-storey flat in High St that Monica and Des moved into. It was (in fact, still is) a narrow brick building with a fire escape all down the front, where I lost a favourite toy under their couch, and couldn’t seem to get anyone to find it for me (!)

I used to stay with the family sometimes once they moved to Mosgiel, or go away with them on holiday. They often went to the De Courcy’s crib [also known as a 'bach' or holiday home] in Miller’s Flat, or to a crib in Warrington. This was when I was quite young and only Paul and Mary were on the scene. Monica and Des were always great to be with, and were warm and friendly to this odd little boy they were looking after.

One of the lovely things about Monica was her laugh. It was highly infectious. Sometimes even as adults we’d all just sit there laughing uncontrollably because of it. Even when she was lying in the rest home after she’d got Alzheimer’s, when all the talking she could do was a strange little language that she seemed to make up as she went along, or she’d sing odd little snatches of songs (I think to entertain us), that smile would suddenly light up her face, and there’d be a moment when the laugh would bubble up. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t any particular joke, it was as endearing as ever.

Last Saturday Celia and I spent a bit of time with Des, Mary and Barbara [two of Monica's children]. They told us some stories we’d never heard. We found out that when Monica was young she and Flo, Des’s sister, had been very good friends. It was Flo who made sure Monica got introduced to Des - even though she was at that time going out with another young man.

They also told us about a time when Monica was at school, at St Philomena’s. In one sewing class she was with a group of girls who were chatting and not getting on with their work, and the nun came passed, looked at their work, and said, ‘That’s terrible. Do it again!’ The girls carried on talking, didn’t do anything else, and some time later the nun came back, took another look, and said: ‘That’s much better!’

And talking of sewing, we found out that Monica and a group of other ladies used to darn the socks for the seminarians at Holy Cross College. Some years later, Des, Monica and the family were heading north for a wedding, and stopped off near Kaikoura. They were going to stay in a motel, but the local parish priest insisted they stay with him at the Presbytery. Next morning, to Monica’s embarrassment, he just happened to mention during the sermon that there was ‘someone’ in the congregation who used to darn his socks.

We only just found out on Saturday that Monica had had asthma very badly as a child, often to the point where the doctor would be called in the middle of the night to attend to her. She was thought of as a fragile and unwell child, and there were times they thought they might lose her. Apparently Pat would wheel her around in a wheelchair. All the problems with asthma disappeared when she came to live in Mosgiel.

When I heard last week that Monica had died, the first picture that came to mind was that she would now be running through Heaven looking for her family. I could see her racing straight through Mumma’s extensive garden plots – and laughing, of course – and shouting to Mumma to come and find everyone! There’d be Esther and Raymond*, her big sister and brother whom she never even known in this life; there’d be Joyce and Charlie and Doreen, and Terry and Jack; and Des Ryan and Des O’Flaherty – she’d be laughing at the fact that three sisters out of four married men with the same Christian name [Des]. She’d be looking for her mother and father (Nan and Pop as they were to us grandchildren), and suddenly there they’d all be, laughing uncontrollably and shouting and hugging and kissing each other. And standing to one side would be Jesus, with a big grin on his face....and when he finally gets a word in, he embraces her and says, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share the joy that I’ve been preparing for you forever.'

*Esther, the first-born child, died within a few months; Raymond, the third child (after Joyce) died in his fourth year.

The photos come from the front and back covers of the song sheet provided for the funeral.