"Today, my youngest sister Susan celebrates her 60th birthday. Having been born at the opposite end of a seven-sibling family (she the youngest and me the oldest), we were brought up in the same family, the same household and by the same parents, and yet the 14-year generation gap we experienced essentially meant our growing up experiences would never be similar. As I grew into family life, I knew that I was the eldest to parents who were still deeply in love, but by the time Susan was in her teens, the romantic gloss had worn off our parents' marriage and the normality of struggling to survive week to week, along with more arguments between mum and dad was a permanent household feature.
Over the past few years, our Susan, who has been gainfully employed as an Area Social Work Manager for many years, has become a grandmother and dotes upon her grandchildren. Her daughter, Evie, is also scheduled to get married this summer. Despite having had her share of domestic difficulties in the past, our Susan has always remained a person content with her life. Happy 60th birthday, Susan. I love you lots, little sister.
When I was a young boy, my mother would say, 'Billy, you may never know what you want to be until you grow up, but whatever you turn out to be, I pray that you'll be content!' I learned very early on in my life that 'contentment' was the art of getting out of every situation all the good that there is in it. Being born the eldest of seven children into a family of materially poor circumstances taught me that the richest person isn't the one who has the most of material life, but the one who needs the least.
Sometimes when I complained that I didn't have the things that other boys had, my mother would remind me, 'Billy, you have much more. When I die, I will leave you the greatest inheritance of all. I might leave you a few debts to clear off, but you will have the knowledge that I always loved you, and have left you the legacy of your six brothers and sisters by your side. There is no greater treasure I can leave you, believe me.' She was so right.
Over the years that followed, my mother's words proved their weight in gold. I learned that when I didn't get everything I wanted, that I could at least be content with the fact that the things I didn't want, I didn't get either; things like depression, despair, destitution, lack of confidence or doubt in myself and the future, and very importantly, lack of brother and sisterly love and support!
Whatever powered my mother to get through her arduous days with a smile and a giving heart, it was the ability to see the good in every situation and never focus on the negative that provided her with the inner energy. Her power of positive thinking taught me that nothing is either good or bad in this world that thinking it so will not make it so! I also learned through positive thinking that I could always get what I wanted out of life once I learned to make do with what I had and learn to want what I got!
Finally, teachings from my Catholic religion, along with teachings ascribed to the Buddha taught me that 'less is more' once I started to appreciate and accept that everything we possess that is not necessary to one's life and happiness has the potential to become a burden, and that a day rarely passes when we do not add to it. Therein lay the wealth of my inheritance and legacy that my mother left me when she died. She was a woman who often carried an empty purse and would give any outstretched hand her last penny. She had the biggest of hearts; a heart filled with an amount of generosity that never stopped giving, and a mind stuffed with Irish wisdom that she gladly shared......when she wasn't looking after a busy household, a husband and seven children!" William Forde: April 11th, 2017.