The late Nancy Browne, who passed away last week
Two Mile House lost a great pillar of the community last week with the death of Nancy Browne.
Like the many hundreds who turned up to say goodbye, I knew Nancy Browne well enough to warrant the occasional text message in London, and have enjoyed hundreds of cups of tea in the kitchen of her home in Kildare.
I also enjoyed something of a 20-year-long conversation about the ups and downs of Kildare and Two Mile House football, dating back to the times of Micko.
But when I think of the front of her house now, I think of the blue and gold colours of the Clare flag planted in the front garden, and her native county elicited a pride that was later carried into Munster Football Championship by one of her sons, Niall who played for the Banner.
Family, community, sport, spirituality, they were just some of the fabric of a life that was marked by a striking generosity of spirit.
Sometimes a plaudit like that gets thrown about too easily, but anyone who knows Nancy Browne knows it to be the most appropriate fit.
Often, you’d see Nancy driving on the road and there’s yet to be a confirmed sighting of her ever passing anyone with their thumb out.
Once close to the Meath border, she stopped to pick up a stranger.
It ended up being Gaelic footballer Graham Geraghty, who would go on to win an All Ireland with Meath in the years that followed.
They fell into conversation. Of course they did. This driver could talk and the Meath footballer revealed how he’d recently returned from a trial with an English soccer team.
I think now how even great All Stars benefitted from her generosity.
The first time I was on the receiving end myself was in 1999, when I was heading off to spend a year in Australia.
I planned to stay one of her sons and a couple of hours before I left for Dublin Airport, she pulled up to the house and dropped off an envelope full of Australian dollars.
That always stuck in my mind. And I couldn’t have imagined then that years later, post Australia, I’d end up living on the same lane in Two Mile House.
I remembered this week the story of a local postman who, when delivering the mail to the family home, used to steal into the kitchen and cut himself some of her homemade brown bread if he spied it fresh through the window.
The bread, like the baker, was the stuff of legend.
And I read recently how houses in Ireland are becoming less and less accessible as our social habits change.
WhatsApp, text messaging, and mobile phones are to blame apparently, and that’s more than a little regrettable because welcoming kitchens and long conversations have always been the bedrock of our hospitable national reputation.
In that regard, the welcome sign that hung over this back door was never found wanting and the term Céad Míle Fáilte might well have been minted in Nancy Browne’s kitchen.
I spent four very happy years living on the same lane as Nancy Browne, and there wasn’t many weeks when we didn’t cross paths, and there was never a week when she didn’t stop to speak a few words.
More often than not, she was on her way from the house we then shared with her son, Cormac, after dropping off some bread, or coming down to put a match to the fire.
Someone once joked that she had four sons but inherited three more when a group of us moved in down the lane.
On other days that ran into late nights and then early mornings, I’d sometimes meet her on the same lane, strolling peacefully while the world slept, just enjoying the sanctuary of the countryside and always signing-off with a commitment to administer some kind of favour on our behalf.
Through some of that period she was recovering from her illness, but such was her stoicism you’d never have known.
It wouldn’t have been her style and this tribute could quite quickly turn into a long list featuring other words like empathy and compassion, but she wouldn’t thank me for it.
Sometimes, however, I feel the genuine expression of these qualities is becoming a rarer thing which is why at a moment like this they should be hoisted high for all to see.
And it’s a rare experience to know someone who has done nothing but right by you and said nothing but good about you for as long as you’ve known them.
Here’s the thing, though — this isn’t a unique personal experience.
Just ask the hundreds and hundreds who turned up over two days last week to say farewell.
Nancy Browne, RIP.
Robert Mulhern is a London based journalist contracted to RTE's The Documentary on One. To contact our columnist, email email@example.com