Raised on songs and stories

Mum

In memory of our mum, Caitriona Di Paola (nee Kearney)
13 November 1952 – 15 December 2015

Caitriona was one of four children born to her parents Maura (Mary) & Matt Kearney in early 1950s Dublin. It was a happy childhood but sadly, at the age of five, Caitriona lost her little sister Bernadette at just 18 days old.  Two years later, in search of work, the family moved to England in 1960 and this young Irish girl quickly settled into a new life in inner-city Manchester.   

Caitriona’s older brothers, the dearly departed Cyril and John, the eldest, were highly protective over their younger sister, often walking her to school and always looking out for her. Caitriona joked recently that walking her to school was just a surefire way for them to meet girls but she felt safe in their presence.

Communion WithMum

Though the family didn’t have much money, it was a loving, caring and sociable environment – the family would often take in lodgers down on their luck. It was a backdrop that contributed towards Caitriona’s own personal DNA, forging her own set of values: fun, caring, hardworking, resilient and above all, loving.

As a youngster, Caitriona would love her trips to the Irish countryside to see her many cousins and extended Kearney family in County Limerick. Some of her heart never really left Ireland, be it Dublin or the more rural surroundings of Doon and Dark Island.

Throughout her school years, Caitriona worked hard.  She attended Loreto Convent in Dublin, St. Joseph’s RC Primary School and Loreto Grammar in Manchester, making many friends and excelling academically. She successfully passed her O levels in 1968 but by then Caitriona’s independent flame started to burn.

She joined the Young Catholic Students which allowed her to help people in need but also gave her access to, in her own words ‘fun, boys and parties’. This led to conflict with Loreto’s Headmistress, Mother Victorine.  Caitriona explains in her own words;

“My parents were spoken to about my involvement in the YCS, which made me more determined to be president. It came to a head a few weeks before my A Levels when Mother Victorine called me in and offered me a card for an organisation called Contact which looked out for young women who had gone astray! I might have been lively, but I was a good kid. I just grabbed my stuff and walked out of the school gate.”

Singing Accordian

After school, Caitriona worked for five years as a civil servant for the Department of the Environment and then the Manchester Health Authority in Chorlton. In this time she met, fell in love with and eventually, aged 22, married Giovanni in 1975. Exactly nine months to the day later, Caitriona gave birth to her first child, Michael. And three years later, she repeated the feat with a second boy, Anthony as the Di Paola family settled on Peel Hall Rd in Wythenshawe.  Caitriona would devote herself to emotionally nurturing and intellectually stimulating two young boys. Something, many would say, she excelled at.

Motherhood didn’t entirely quell Caitriona’s appetite and love for music and she continued to sing. At bedtime to her sleeping children; at family parties given half a chance and semi-professionally, as part of various groups, in pubs and clubs around South Manchester. Caitriona loved to sing and cherished the power of words and lyrics. A particular party trick being able to sing a song about any topic you could throw at her. The repertoire was endless, as was the enjoyment of those who surrounded the inevitable life and soul of any party.  Her house is filled with song lyrics, musings, limericks and poems – she had a real talent for the written word.

WithMichael Bathing WithBoys WithDad

Aside from music, Caitriona had a wicked and incredibly sharp sense of humour, as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of the world – even in her latter years, she was still tuned into modern trends and current affairs. Caitriona even tweeted once or twice.  She could read James Joyce and Dylan Thomas but also enjoyed Terry Wogan, Mills and Boon, CSI Miami, Sudoku challenges and daily crosswords.

As her two boys matured under her guidance, Caitriona revisited her career in 1984, initially working as a technician at St John Plessington High School, St. Pauls RC High School and then Poundswick High School – all in Wythenshawe.  In 1992, at the age of 40, Caitriona’s magnificent mind led her to complete her vocational A-Levels – she gained the BTEC National Certificate in Science with a grade of distinction – one of only a handful of candidates to do so in the North West that year.

The Headteacher of Poundswick saw the potential in Caitriona and asked her to be a classroom support worker assigned full time to a young boy with ADHD.  This led her to gravitate towards a new career in child care and social services.  In 1998 she started work as a residential care worker at Greenbrow and then Beech House Children’s Home in Wythenshawe – places where she again made many friends and earned the respect of colleagues.  In 2005 she gained her NVQ Level 3 in Caring for Children and Young People. This was another proud achievement for Caitriona.

Caitriona’s faith in God never wavered for many years, ensuring the boys attended mass every Sunday and she made trips to Lourdes, the Vatican and took great pleasure in seeing Pope John Paul II at Heaton Park.  But Caitriona struggled with the loss of her parents. She loved her father with all her heart and invested so much energy in caring for her mother in her final years. Both deaths became a huge emotional drain on Caitriona.

Later in life, Caitriona, by now divorced, found companionship with Nigel, continuing to explore her love of music, pubs and meeting new people. She travelled to many places and always spoke fondly of the experiences at this stage of her life.

Daphne Horse John Snowski

She enjoyed wonderful holidays in Canada, spending time with her dear brother John, who himself hasn’t been well in recent years. The photographs of her final trip in 2006 are full of love and happiness and rumours Caitriona spent most of the trip flirting with ski patrol boys are yet to be proven.

She would later become a very proud and loving Nonna as both Michael and Anthony gave her two grandchildren each – Bobby, Joseph, Elin and Annika. The children have been particularly upset these past few weeks and Nonna is remembered with great affection and love by the next generation of family.

After a gradual decline over a couple of years, Caitriona bravely battled serious and painful illness in Autumn 2014, with the doctors at Wythenshawe Hospital astonished how she managed to fight off so many problems. But fight she did and Caitriona was on a positive road to recovery until another emotional battering took its toll. Saying goodbye to her brother, Cyril, at bedside in hospital, last year again hit her hard and visibly drained her.

Cyril

Finally, after further hospital admissions, Caitriona was ready to be reunited with her mum, dad, brother and little sister. She passed away peacefully at 9am on Tuesday 15 December with both sons at her side.

Caitriona Di Paola was only aged 63 but she lived a full life and imparted at least a hundred years worth of love, wisdom and fun to those around her.

Trophy

She will be sorely missed and the best way one can describe the loss of Caitriona is to use the very words she wrote herself back in 1989 when her own beloved daddy passed away:

My Dad (Matthew Kearney)

16 July 1906 – 7 January 1989

I knew that you were leaving
My heart was sad and sore
I had time to say ‘I love you’
So I said it o’er and o’er.

It didn’t make it easy
It didn’t make it right
You broke the heart that loved you
When you left me that sad night.

You told me that you had to go
But you were scared to try
The place that God had found for you
And how it felt to die.

So I held you tightly in my arms
As you looked towards the light
God opened wide the golden gate
And took you home that night.

A Family Tribute: Always There

Words are sometimes too limited to truly capture the essence of a living being. They lack the emotional stimulation of a smile or a tear. They fail to capture the sensory stimulation of a scent of perfume or piece of music.

But words, when written down, solid as oak, are always there. Unlike a fleeting interaction they endure beyond the expanse of any memory or lifetime. So we wanted to share some feelings about what our mum meant to us both, inspired by this very notion.

Three weeks after we sadly and painfully said goodbye to mum, we strongly believe our mum’s spirit is still very much alive.

In our own words, Always There…

Mum, we never suffered from pain.
Because you were always there,
soothing and healing.

Mum, we never stopped learning.
Because you were always there,
sharing experience and wisdom.

Mum, we never needed pushing.
Because you were always there,
gently nudging us to better ourselves.

Mum, we never needed punishing.
Because you were always there,
teaching us right from wrong.

Mum, we never missed a meal.
Because you were always there
to feed and nourish us.

Mum, we never wanted for anything.
Because you were always there;
time and patience was your currency.

Mum, we never slept on a worry at night.
Because you were always there,
with a song to fix it.

Mum, we never lacked encouragement.
Because you were always there,
bursting with pride at the slightest achievement.

Mum, we never felt alone.
Because you were always there,
even if just a text or call as we grew up.

Mum, we’ll never forget you.
Because your spirit will always be there,
looking over all of us.

Thank you for everything,

Michael & Anthony.

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