“I was named after my two Grandmothers,” my Mother told me umpteen times over the years, referring to her Grandmothers Bridget Maud Hendy and Annie Hawkes.
She hated her second name “Maud” so much that she only used it on legal documents; otherwise she was just ‘Desley Ann Lyons’.
“It could have been worse,” she’d say. “I could have been named Bridget!”
Personally, I think Bridget surpasses Maud by far. At least she wouldn’t have inherited the nickname of ‘Mud’ that her brother Barry had bestowed upon her.
Recently, when trying to decide upon a destination for a short holiday, my husband and I chose Bundaberg. Whilst he was hankering for the heavenly spirit produced by the Bundaberg Distillery Company, I dreamt of searching the spirit world for my Great Grandmother, whom my Mother was named after, in part. Her home town of Bundaberg is also her final resting place.
I only knew my Great Grandmother as “Granny Hendy” and of course her Christian names of “Bridget Maud” are embedded into my brain. I had no idea of the actual date of her death, however I do have a photo of myself with Granny Hendy not long before her final demise. So, I was guessing that occurred sometime between 1960 and 1962.
Prior to departing for Bundaberg, my Aunt reminded me that Granny had remarried and her surname became ‘O’Connel’, or so I thought she said. I intended to confirm that fact before leaving, but with getting ready and all, I forget to do so.
Last Wednesday we rocked up at the Bundaberg Cemetery to find ourselves at the gateway of a giant City of the Dead. “How on earth will I find Granny here?” I exclaimed, feeling totally defeated, before our search had begun.
As we proceeded through the gates into the sea of concrete angels, crosses and clasping hands, my prayers were answered by a gracious young man called Nicholas who came to our aid, like Saint Gabriel, the arch angel himself. He told us that he was formerly a funeral director whose respectful manner told us that his residents were truly in good caring hands. He directed us into his office where he and his assistant began the search of the computer records for my dearly departed Granny.
There were ‘Bridget Mauds’ by other surnames but not by the name of O’Connell, Connell, Connor or anything remotely similar.
“Perhaps I’ve got the wrong surname,” I admitted.
Then, as if by the way of a miracle, Nicholas’ assistant remembered, “We have a Catholic Cemetery. Could she be there?”
“Well, yes, she was a Catholic.” I realized, as I had gleaned that fact from another family story that I had heard over and over.
The search began in the Catholic Cemetery and came to a dead end. Nicholas asked us to leave it with him and he’d phone us as soon as he found anything. Half an hour later, true to his word, he phoned to say he’d found Bridget Maud O’Connel in the Catholic Cemetery where she was interred on 14th October 1961.
Following our Arch Angel’s directions, we found Granny waiting for us, where he said she’d be. She was resting peacefully in Grave number 522, in a tiny community that faces onto a quiet country road, on the outskirts of town. From her eternal bed of rest, her days are spent listening to the happy tweeting songs of birds in the trees and the soft whispering breezes that gently sweep across the neighbouring fields of cane.
We stayed only for a short while, not wishing to disturb her 45 years of sleep. But I urge anyone who remembers her personally, when visiting her home town of Bundaberg, stop by and say hello. I’m sure she’d be watching down from the pearly gates with those smiling blue eyes, welcoming you to her heavenly home.
Apart from Nicholas, whose perseverance was next to none, I can thank my Mother and her family for speaking Granny’s name so often over the years. If it wasn’t for my Mother being given the name of “Maud” I would never have memorised her Grandmother’s name. If it wasn’t for stories about Granny’s wonderful cooking skills, her motherly kindness and her clear blue eyes, I would not have searched for someone I never knew whose final resting place is almost 1000 miles away.
So, it is important to keep talking about family, both present and departed, to keep their memories alive. If we continue to include them in our daily lives, then they are never truly gone.