Happy hour at the Mount

Posted on November 26, 2007
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             I have a story that tells you about a local woman. Please bear with me while I tell you a bit about her first.

             A large crowd attended Donna Carol Fitzpatrick MacLean’s funeral, Monday, November 26, at St. Michael’s Basilica in Miramichi.

            Donna died last week following heart surgery.

            Donna was among the most joyful people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She enjoyed her family. She enjoyed being a nurse. She enjoyed her music. She enjoyed her Liberal party politics. She enjoyed her church. She enjoyed her Irish heritage and culture. She always enjoyed her music. She even enjoyed being exasperated at some of the silly things powerful people do.

            It was a joy just to see her arrive at the Saturday morning farm market. She smiled and everyone smiled.

            She had a unique voice that was not only melodic but with a clean, clear, tone I can only describe as especially sweet. Her brother Tom, also musical, tells me she had perfect pitch and could harmonize with anyone.

            Father John Fraser chose the parable of the talents to exemplify Donna’s life. He compared her to the servant who invested his master’s money and earned a tenfold return.

            Friends and family were, at first, somewhat nonplussed at his choice. If there was one thing Donna was not about it was money.

            Father Fraser went on to explain that Donna, been born with the gift of music, had invested her talent in all the aspects of life listed above. He pointed out that she even died on the Saint day of Ste. Cecilia, the patron saint of song who, he said, claimed to “sing her songs for God.”

            He also joked that he had given instructions that all the servers for her funeral mass be Liberals.

            The service was very emotional. Each hymn and piece of music was Donna. The meditation was the plaintive lament “Ashokan Farewell.”

            The incensing hymn was the famed Irish blessing that concludes “And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

            Jimmy Lawlor sang Donna’s defining song, “Down the River of Golden Dreams.” Donna and her father had always sung it together closing their radio program on CKMR in the early days of local radio.

            The Basilica choir was out in full force, determined to do Donna justice. Choir leader Joan Legere told me they made it to the end although the organist did, at one point, lose her ability to see her music through her tears .

            A large contingent of nurses joined the procession of mourners as Donna’s casket left the church. There were 40 names on the list of honourary pall bearers.

            You get the idea of how the community felt about Donna.

            I have a favourite Donna story.

            She was on staff at the Mount St. Joseph nursing home. She approached brother Tom, manager of the local Royal Canadian Air Force Association Wing club. She asked if he would press the various beer company representatives to donate a case or two of beer a month to the Mount.

            He did and, when they heard what she was up to, they all readily agreed.

            Donna created a weekly happy hour for the aged and handicapped patients. She would sing all the old songs and draft other local musicians to come in to perform. Those who could handle it got a paper cup of beer. As you can imagine, it was the highlight of the week for most of them. She treated them like adult citizens with a right to adult pleasures.

            If you think about who some of these people were and what they had done for us all, how else should they be treated?

            And that is how I will always remember Donna — joyfully bringing joy into the lives of patients who really needed some and really appreciated it.



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