by PATRICIA BROOKS
Tauranga parishioners, Maureen and Kevin Gallagher had a very happy marriage for 66 years.
When they became engaged, Kevin was concerned that his Gisborne back-block farming life might not suit his wife-to-be. Maureen Hollis responded, “where you go, I will go”. And so it was; with their family of eight living at Gisborne, then moving to Tauranga in the 1970s, where the devoted couple died within 20 minutes of each other on October 12.
At a requiem Mass celebrated by Fr Philip Billing, parish priest at St Mary Immaculate church, Tauranga, on October 16 it was appropriate that the first reading was from Ruth 1:16-17.
“Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die- there will I be buried,” the text stated.
As Fr Billing said, ”Beautiful words, so apt as they describe the man and woman we have come to remember and thank God for today. Faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty are noble qualities, something everyone strives for and looks for in a relationship. However, for many those ideals fall short of what they had hoped for. As we gather around Kevin and Maureen today in this sacred place, we recognise just how blessed we have been by their presence among us. We come to remember and thank God for a loving, loyal and faithful, mother and father, husband and wife, grandparents, brother and sister, aunty and uncle, friend and servant of God.”
Though devoted to each other, their family was the centre of the lives of Kevin and Maureen. Family mattered most as the capable, practical and caring parents raised their family of eight.
But when age and ill health took hold, their family cared for them, so they could stay in their own home.
Trish, their daughter who lived next door, cared for them for seven years, but when the parents’ health further deteriorated, Craig, their youngest son, moved home, enabling them to stay together,
Each were reluctant to leave the other, and Kevin’s last words were to ask after Maureen.
Maureen died first at 6.07am on October 12, and Kevin who, due to his medication did not know she had passed on, died 20 minutes later.
Craig, who delivered the eulogy at the requiem Mass, described his father’s passing.
“Dad was also clearly fading. Dad loved the morning song of birds and last week he told me he loved wild ducks, particularly blue ducks. Through the gap in the curtains I could see it was dawn and could hear the sound of birds, so I opened the window for him to hear better. Not long after, as Dad drew his last breath two low-flying ducks flew over the house calling to each other. At times like this, we like to look for symbolism in nature, some might say it was a coincidence. To me it was a clear sign that Mum and Dad had safely passed on to their next journey together.”
“Mum and Dad had a great life together that centred around family, like most people their life was no movie script, but the way they departed this world was.”
Their 66th wedding anniversary was celebrated on October 2.
As well as their eight children, the couple are survived by 21 grandchildren, 31 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.