Catherine Maria McGrath, the daughter of James McGrath and Kathleen McGrath (nee Brennan) was born in London, England on December 6, 1955 and died in Stillwater, NJ on January 13, 2015. She was brilliant, beautiful and loved by all who knew her.
During the week between Christmas and New Year of 2014, Catherine received a holiday visit from one of her closest (I won't say oldest!) friends, who now lives on the West Coast, and her friend's family, including her husband and elementary school-age sons, whom I will call "Sam" and "Max."
Sam, now in Sixth Grade, recently wrote a memoir of that week and Catherine, which I reproduce without edit, because it needs none.
Nobody Likes Death
One day I came home from school and my dad said, ”Be gentle with your mother she has had a rough day,” but I really wanted to know what was going on…
Earlier that year, I was so excited because I got to go to visit my mom’s best friend, Catherine at her farmhouse in New Jersey. Catherine’s husband’s name was Bob. She was the nicest person I’ve ever met.
Catherine got stage four breast cancer when she was younger and almost died then, but she got lucky. My mom said, “Don’t be surprised if she doesn’t have as much hair as last time. She is very ill.”
“Will anything else be different about her?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” my mom said. But when we got to Catherine’s house, I found out a lot was different from the last time I saw her.
We got to Catherine’s house at 1:00 in the morning on a cold windy night. We all thanked Cliff, Catherine and Bob’s friend, for picking us up at the airport and driving us there. It was so late, but I wasn’t even tired when Cliff said Catherine was going to make a special dessert, so we got whipped cream at a gas station shop on the way there. When we arrived, the house smelled like the meatballs and marinara Catherine and Bob had cooked that day. Bob woke up and said hi to everyone. My mouth was watering because dinner the next day was going be Bob’s “famous” ham. Everyone loves how Bob’s ham tastes, and it smells like warm spices.
When I saw Catherine the next day, I was surprised at how bald and skinny she was. When I hugged her, I could feel her bones. At the end of dinner that day, Catherine was feeling sick so she went to bed.
We stayed with Catherine for about a week. When it was time to leave to go back to California, I was upset because I didn’t want to go.
About a week after we got home, my mom was crying a lot on the phone. My brother, dad and I were on the way to the library and my mom told my dad Catherine had died. My mom went to her funeral but I couldn’t go.
I remember hugging Catherine so much that when we had to leave my mom pulled me away from her. I remember the times that I would watch movies in their big house with soft, fluffy cushions on the couch. I remember going on walks with her through farmland and forests on chilly winter days. I also remember Cliff setting off fireworks on New Year’s eve. Catherine and I watched together from inside the house because it was so cold outside. I remember her amazing cooking that always tasted like it came from a fancy restaurant. I learned how important being with people you love is while they’re still around.
I loved Catherine so much.
Me too, Sam. Thank you for your beautiful memoir.