Updated: Dec 21, 2018
Joe here - my mother used to tell a story of me trying to race Nurse Duffy as she made her village rounds. Nurse Duffy rode one of those heavy, black bikes, you know the ones with the chain encased in an oil cage.
She rode it proudly, sat rod straight, basket on the front, nurse's hat pinned to her head, turning the wheels slowly and deliberately. Apparently I couldn't help but race her, my wee legs turning furiously, head down, the imagined finish line at the doorway of our home in Newtowncunningham, Co. Donegal.
I was maybe 5 years old.
My mother used to say back then that I had a good set of legs, "they would just keep going round and round" she'd say, or "there was no stopping them".
How right she was. She was right about a lot of things.
My mother passed away early Saturday morning, April 7th, surrounded by her loved ones. She will be buried on Monday in Newtowncunningham. I'm not one for church readings, I do, however, have some words to write.
She grew potatoes for her family in a field that adjoined our humble Donegal home. The way the field was positioned meant that the drills went from long to short. I have a vivid memory of helping her gather them in for the first time when I was 8. I wanted to start with the shortest drill. She wouldn't have it, "son....you start furthest away and work your way home."
She worked hard to feed, care for and love all those around her. She set the example of how to work in hard times and with challenging situations. Her mantra's,"you get up and you go again" or forward is the only direction."
Steadfast. Loyal. Humble. Supportive. Fierce. Loving.
In the early days I remember countless Saturday nights, having raced that day, desperately trying to get my race kit cleaned and ready to go for Sunday. She would wash and lay my clothes out and worry away at every muddy and sweaty spot until it was pristine. Sometimes we'd be in that kitchen together in the wee hours of the morning hanging clothes over chairs, from hooks over the range. It was an incredibly meaningful and formative time with her. I will cherish it forever.
Would you believe that I took her my race kit to clean up and until Nov 2017 when I broke the Malin - Mizen - Malin World record. No-one else will do. This is how much it meant to us. This ritual.
She gave of herself time and time again for me to get to the start line. None of this would have been possible without her.
If you ever wondered why I was always turned out like a pro - my mother - to this day no matter how big or small the race is, I turn myself out like a pro - my mother.
Pride in my work, that's one of the many things she taught me.
I think about her a lot when I ride the bike, always have done. I've thought about her more and more in these years of endurance however. I've thought about where I get my ability to push through the lonely hours of quiet suffering, to accept the inevitable questioning of strength, purpose and capability and then I remember........... she has a candle burning in the kitchen window and will do so until I cross the finish line..."faith son.....faith...you start furthest away and you work your way home."
It has propelled and encouraged me to cross many a finish line.
Our family had the fortune to know when she entered her 'flamme rouge'. We were gifted the time to say our goodbyes before she finally 'worked her way home'.
She will be missed. Never forgotten.
When I ride I will forever think ...."forward is the only direction"....."work my way home'.
Thank you all for your messages. I will respond to them in time.
Until then, keep your wheels turning and I will see you on the road