You may not have known Grace McKevett, but she was my wife Trish’s first cousin. I said ‘was’ because when I came home from work last month to celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary, Trish’s ashen face told me that Grace had finally lost her battle with cancer.
Grace was buried on Good Friday outside Dundalk. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there because of work, but I had promised myself that I would write about the amazing Grace, whom I last met for a few minutes at the funeral of Trish’s sister Betsy in January. Despite the miserable weather of that month, and her failing health, she travelled to Cork to pay her respects. What incredible courage and determination.
We had known for some time that Grace was dying. First diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, she was eventually given a clean bill of health. She bore the initial diagnosis and subsequent treatment with a steely resolve and plans for her farm, travel, the many books and magazines she wanted to read.
One of the many things I loved about Grace was her impishness. When Trish, my sister-in-law Margaret and I, stayed with her for a few days last October, she asked me if I’d like a cup of coffee. When I asked if she had a small cup rather than the large mugs and cups in the kitchen, she put her head around the door holding an ornamental cup about the size of a thimble and asked, “Is that small enough?”
Yes, Grace always shone with optimism, and I can’t remember a time when she didn’t wear a smile on her face even as she knew she was losing her battle to live. To be in her company was a privilege because she was always ready to dwell on the positive.
Here’s a tribute my brother-in-law Ciaran McKeown wrote days just after she dies. It captures in a few words the varied life she led, and why we all loved her.
“My cousin Grace MCKevett… was a wonderfully inspiring woman, full of joy. Grace lived life to the full, and interspersed with her professional farming at home, her working experiences included farming in New Zealand, orange harvest in Australia, chambermaid in the Savoy, the London Underground and as a Police Constable with the London Met during the 7/7 bombings.
“She spent her last few years back on her farm in Louth with her Belted Galloways, Elvis the donkey and Furzy her Alsatian pup.”
On that last trip to stay with Grace last October her faithful Boxer Mac displayed signs of distress, and I promised to write a blog if he died. Although this once frisky canine had once jumped up on me when younger, leaving a few scratches on my stomach that took some time to heal, I was prepared to forgive and forget. The blog is here if you want to read it.
In her final weeks, when we realised Grace was slipping away, Trish decided to see her for the last time. As Trish said afterwards, it was hard to watch her lying in the bed. I must confess I hadn’t the courage to see Grace then, so it didn’t help me in the slightest when she asked Trish where I was.
Sadly, Grace was predeceased by her beloved mum, Betty, last year, and brother Patrick. Farewell then Grace from your sisters Margaret, Louise and Mary, and your extended family and friends. Thanks for enriching the lives of everyone who met you.