The People We Love

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Today I remembered my Nana. She passed away in 1994. I loved her very much and she lived with our family for the last 6 years of her life. I was 17 when she died. Of course I missed her when she died, but I didn’t really think about her life and her choices deeply and thoughtfully until today. I thought about her today because my amazing wife sent me a song that she’d heard and immediately loved, so she wanted me to hear it, too. When I listened to it, I instantly thought of my Nana. Her name is Margaret Corbett. She was born in Ireland in 1899 and came to the United States in 1921. She left her home, where she was the oldest of 13 children, to start a new life in America. She made her home in New York City, worked at an Automat, married, raised my father and his brother and sister, moved to NJ and for as long as I knew her she was the ever present matriarch of the Sheeran Family. But today, when my wife sent me this song, I realized who my Nana really was, what a brave soul she must have been, and what she sacrificed to come here. Without her strength, I would not be here. Without her courage and hope, my family would not exist. She was just 22 years old when she left her family, not sure if she’d ever see them again, to start her new life. She never saw her mother again. She never saw her father again. She never played the role of big sister to her 12 dear siblings again. It takes so much more than a momentary spontaneous decision to leave ones homeland, family, comfort and history. It takes bravery, passion, hope, and a battle with the fear inside you that requires strength and emotion to win. I wish I’d listened to her as she told stories of her past, but I was young and unaware. She used to sing, though. She’d sing songs we were singing as a family, but when she was alone she’d sing tunes in Gaelic. The song my wife shared with me is called Erin Gra Mo Croi (Ireland of my heart). I’m sure Nana sang these words. I wish I’d listened when she sang them, because she was remembering her home. Read the words, and listen to the song below.

Ohh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes did e’er behold
You’re the land Saint Patrick blessed
You’re the bright star of the west
You’re that dear little isle so far away

At the setting of the sun, when my long day’s work was done
I rambled down the seashore for a walk
And I being all alone I sat down upon a stone
For to gaze upon the scenes of New York

Oh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes have ever seen
And if ever I go home, it’s from you I never will roam
You’re my own native land so far away

With the turf fire burning bright on a cold dark winter’s night
And the snow flakes falling gently to the ground
When Saint Patrick’s Day has come, my thoughts will carry me home
To that dear little isle so far away.

Oh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes have ever seen
You’re the land Saint Patrick blessed
You’re the bright star of the west
You’re that dear little isle so far away

On the day that I did part, well it broke my mother’s heart
Will I never see my dear ones anymore?
Not until my bones are laid in the cold and silent grave
In my own native land so far away

Oh Erin grá mo chrói, you’re the dear old land to me
You’re the fairest that my eyes have ever seen
And if ever I go home, it’s from you I never will roam
You’re my own native land so far away
You’re my own native land so far away

She knew. I love you, Nana.