H is for Happy Birthday Da

I’m a bit out of it today. I had my first Covid vaccine on Wednesday and I have all the expected symptoms. I am very grateful for it tho, and impressed at the efficient organisation at the local vaccine centre.

Today I’m thinking about my dad (in between snoozes). He would have been 91 today. Lockdown would not have suited him AT ALL. He loved company and would have wanted to celebrate his birthday with as many as possible. I wish I had the brain power to tell a story. Instead I’m going to share a letter I wrote to him, a couple of years after he died.

I don’t think I’ve shared this before. Sorry if you’ve read it already.

Dear Dad,

I want to ask you something. Don’t worry, I don’t need money (this time).

It feels a bit weird to be writing to you, but of course I’ve left it too late to talk you about this. You’re not surprised though, are you? I know, I’m usually late. You must have come to expect it by now.

The last time I wrote you a letter (a proper one, not a post card or a note), do you remember Da? It was when I went to New Zealand for three months. We’d said goodbye with a silent tight hug. Tight lipped, nodding quickly and blinking. I wrote a letter to you before the plane landed in Auckland. You replied telling me that you’d waited until I left the house before you cried. 

So, I have finally gotten around to writing to you again—because I have to write to you. I can’t talk to you now, but to be honest it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to really talk to you.

Awh Da, your poor head. For almost 30 years you struggled to reach past the dent in your skull and make sense of the world. Sometimes you managed to do it. Every so often you’d start to talk or start to sing and there you’d be. Our Da. You’d be back—just for a few minutes. But by the time we’d acknowledged you were back, you’d be gone again.

I know you don’t remember that day. But I remember it well. I was thirteen and headed off on the bus to go stay with Aunty May. I just missed seeing you being flung into the air by a car. Next day I was told you had a broken leg. Did I know it was worse? How could I have known? Maybe it’s hindsight that makes me think I felt it was more serious. Either way—life was never the same and neither were you.

Sorry Da, I’m waffling and have gone off the point. What I wanted to ask was…do you know what you did for us?

There are so many things. The lesson in covering books stands out. You sat with us, showing how to measure the amount of paper needed. Using the least amount of sellotape. The difference between a stapled book and a book with a thick solid spine. Da! I’m an expert now. I could do it with my eyes closed.

And Christmas—your love and enthusiasm for Christmas was matchless. And of course, the covering books lesson was closely aligned to the wrapping presents lesson. Using paper to the most efficient level and again—less is more with the sellotape.

Music…Da, do you realise what you gave us in music? The love of singing a song. The delight in singing together. You loved nothing more than a room full of people who just wanted to hear each other sing, so we would sing and clap along. We still have it. The love of being a family. You did that. You gave us that.

I hope you know what you left us. I hope you loved how we said goodbye to you. We did it in the best way we knew how. With singing and laughing and crying and just being together.

We will always miss you.

From the shakin’s of the bag as you called me,

The baby, Annmarie xx

G is for Gang of Four

Based on childhood memories, this piece of flash fiction is inspired by my mother and her sisters. It’s based on a writing group prompt, Gang for Four

Gang of Four

They sat around the table every week, with strong opinions, loud voices, strict rules, and plenty of money. Purses bursted with coins. But no brown money. There would be no coppers in this game. On the table was a deck of cards and a bottle of brandy. In the fridge were salad sandwiches, and some fizzy orange for Aunty Teetotal.

They had grown up together in the same house. Shared a bed, clothes, pencils.  Then work and family life stretched their bond, sometimes almost to breaking point. It was never severed though; the tie of sisters rarely is. They were all married when they stared to meet on a Saturday night. Kids old enough to fend for themselves, husbands happy to watch the football or go to the pub. Over the years they became widows in turn and their connection deepened, returning to its childhood level.

Saturday nights were for playing The Queen, Trumps and On the Bus. The games were not to be taken lightly, though they laughed throughout.  They broke for sandwiches half-way through the evening, and it was time to sort the money out.

“I owe you a fiver.”

“Well I owe you seven, so you give that to her and I’ll only owe two.”

“But don’t you owe me ten?”

“I did, but then I paid for the raffle tickets, so you owe me six. Actually, you all owe me six.”

“I paid you for mine, didn’t I? I got you the round mince.”

“Right so, you give that fiver back and I’ll give you…”

The fiver would be passed around the room, more often than not, ending up back in the purse if came out of. When all was totted up, often only a pound or two was ever actually owed, but it had to be put right.

Watching and listening from the stairs, or if we were quiet, on a small stool near the table, we learned fairness, responsibility, the importance of fun and family, and the bond that four sisters can have throughout  a lifetime.

This gang of four did not change the world. But they made our world and we are grateful for it.

December Blessings – A guest poem

Today’s guest post is from my sister-in-law, another Ann-Marie, (though she spells it wrong 😀 😀 😀 )

The poem is short, but beautiful. And here it is…

December Blessings

At last I escape
from head wreck and heart ache
The bright blue skies balm to my soul
Gusty breezes toss up the crows like black confetti
The silver birches are shapely and clean
And there is the Oak, just quietly being,
witness to petty life
As always, I place my hand on its cracked bark
and soak in its power
It gathers up the wind and blows a blessing
through my hair

(c) Ann-Marie Dunne

photo credit: Rojs Rozentāls winter hunter via photopin (license)

Tired feet and a full heart

Following on from my last post – complaining about how busy I am, I thought it would be good to reflect on what I’ve been up to, and why the diary has been so full. I made it sound awful, to be constantly on the go and not have a minute to stop. But much of what I’ve been doing has been enjoyable, worthwhile and uplifthing. So I should quit complaining really.

One of the great things I did took place on Saturday 26th May. I took part in my 2nd Cancer Research UK – Relay for Life, in Pontypool Park. I was part of a team who, for 24 hours, walked to raise money for Cancer Research in Wales. I was privileged to be asked to start the ‘Survivors Lap’ with some actual real-life heroes.
It was an amazing experience.

 On the Saturday, I walked over 20k. I raised over £400, our team raised well over £2000; and we were just one of many teams. The weather forecast wasn’t great, but we managed to dodge the showers most of the time. It was the last hour on the Sunday morning when we were about to do our final lap, having received our medals, when the heavens opened and the rain fell. We were rushed into the marquee to escape the thunder showers. It took me about a week to fully recover but what an amazing 24hours it was.
Thank you! to all who donated and cheered me on.

I was also at a family wedding. It was such a beautiful day, with lots of beautiful people. The groom is officially some level of cousin by marriage, but in my heart he’s a nephew, and I was so proud to be part of his day.

As well as that, other events included:

  • a trip to Ireland (yes, another one)
  • I met up with old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time – one f2f – we spent a whole day together drinking coffee, walking and talking, also a virtual reunion with a friend in the US who is also my editor. She’s doing some work on my non-fiction WIP, so we got to catch up AND get some work done
  • at church we hosted a Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea
  • I also spent a couple of nights with the MIL while himself was away.

That is by no means, an exhaustive list (though maybe a little exhausting).

When I looked again at my diary, I realised how blessed I am to have so many people and events in my life. I shouldn’t complain about my to do list when it includes such delights.

The A to Z of the Pastor’s Wife – M is for Mammy

MM is for Mammy

OK before we start, I know ‘what if’ is a bit of a waste of time, especially when there is absolutely no way of knowing the answer to the question.


There are two that have been rolling around my head for a while.

  1. What would my mammy of me being a pastor’s wife?
  2. Would I be better at this, if I was a mammy?

See I told you there wasn’t much point in the questions! So why can’t I get them out of my head?

I hope my mam would like what I’m doing now. When I started down this journey of faith, she wasn’t very happy. She was hurt, and worried that I was not on the path that I’d been brought up to travel on. I didn’t react well to her reaction and so, when it came to conversations about faith, there were a few difficult years. Over time I think she realised it was right for me. She got on great with himself and I know she really enjoyed our wedding day; and travelling to Wales to visit us when she did.

I am not sure what she would think of this development. I hope she’d be happy about this part of the journey too.

As for question 2. Well, the problem there is, I always think I’d be better at stuff if I was a mammy. I’m sure I’d be great at getting up early, more organised, more tidy, more patient, more sociable, skinnier, taller, faster, I’d have shiny hair AND shiny floors… See where I’m going with this? pointless.com!

There’s no doubt I’d have a better understanding of family life and the issues parents face, if I was one. I suppose I’m hoping that whatever the gaps in my knowledge and experience, God will fill them. I pray He will give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that I may know Him better. (Eph 1:17)

If I have that, then maybe all the stuff I don’t know (what ifs included), won’t matter so much.

What’s love got to do with it?

Yesterday I was at a thanksgiving service for the life of a truly lovely lady.

372846331_e0b4166757_nIt was the first funeral I’ve been to since my Dad died in last March, so it caught me by surprise. I was sad to be saying goodbye to a woman who I was delighted to have as an aunty when I got married.  But I was not upset. She had a sure and certain hope of eternity with God, and we gathered to thank God for her life; rejoicing in hope that we would one day see her again.

What got me though – what caught me so that, for a just a few seconds, I could not get air in my lungs – was the open grave.

I’ve been to many funerals in my life, but the site of an open grave did not give me real pain, until my mother’s body was committed to the ground 10 years ago. And just last year when my dad was buried, I felt that same sharp pain of seeing the coffin lowered. It’s not easy to watch.

Different from my usual ‘Irish’ experience of funerals, my aunty was buried first. Then we went to the church for a service and some food. I liked it that way around, we did the hardest bit first.

3343669051_09d15d75df_nThe sight of an open grave though… the idea of putting someone you love in there… it made me think of when Jesus’ friends had to ask permission to take his body down. Then they placed Him in the borrowed tomb; someone else’s grave. No polished coffin with a brass name plate. No flowers, or photos of him. John 19 tells us that  His body was treated with spices and wrapped in cloths… by his own friends.

I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been.

A bit dismal for Valentine’s Day?

4744229511_c88aaa2d22_nWell, yesterday, people paid tribute to a woman who loved her family and loved her God. A woman who was loved by her God. We could place her body in that ugly open grave, comforted by resurrection truth.

It was all for love; God so LOVED THE WORLD that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


So no matter who responds, no matter who believes – we are ALL loved.   xx ❤


photo credit: Six Feet Under via photopin (license)
photo credit; Garden Tomb 07 via photopin(license)
photo credit: Like This, I Love You, as You Smile so Light as the Water of the Spring…. via photopin (license)

Someone’s on the naughty list…

I have broken my very own rule of not leaving my blog idle for weeks on end. As a reader of blogs, I really don’t like to visit one, only to find it dusty and in need of a fresh post. And here I am, rocking up for the first time since Halloween!

Naughty Amo!

The Poolbeg Lighthouse & the east coast of Ireland

I do have reasons (excuses) for my absence though. It’s a frantic time for me at the moment. I’m 5 days away from relocating to the UK. If you missed that bit of news, you can catch up here.  I’m trying to pack my life into boxes, say goodbye to people, clear the decks as it were, and… AND I’m battling one of my winter lurgies. *cough *splutter

Yeah, yeah, I know, poor me, boo hoo… 🙂
I would be a firm proponent of the ‘let nothing stop you from writing’ ethos, but I have indeed let things stop me. Busyness, tiredness, coughing, crying, more crying, packing, and a heart bursting with emotion at the thought of leaving my homeland.

I hate goodbyes and because my days are full of them, I don’t want to write them. And it’s not just goodbye to Ireland, and my family & friends. It’s goodbye to an era, as we experience the first Christmas without my dad in the world. He WAS Christmas to us, and to think we’ll never gather in our family home on Christmas morning again is hard. Very very hard.

So I have allowed the pen to dry up a bit as I pack stuff, hug people and eat chocolate.

HEY! people keep buying it for me, what am I supposed to do…?

Not sure if I’ll be back here before 2015, So I want to thank you all for reading, and the support you’ve given me during the year as I’ve wrestled with loss, and rambled on about it here.

Here’s to another year of words. There might even be a few good ones.

I’m thankful to each and every one of you who has liked, followed, commented or just popped in for a quick read. Have a great Christmas all.

auntyamo x

photo credit: Corey Leopold via photopin cc

She’s Leaving Home

Well hello there 🙂

The Road to Autumn (and to our church in Brannockstown)

Yes it’s a while since I’ve been here. My little summer break turned into a longer one because I knew when I came back to the blog I’d be writing this post.

It’s a strange thing to finally have an answer after a couple of years of searching for one. Stranger still when it’s something that at one stage I didn’t want; and now… well it’s right.

I worry about myself sometimes; that I’m fickle and moody and have used up my quota of the women’s prerogative to change my mind. All those things are probably true of me… but! I also believe in seasons. Seasons that God has something for you and then something else. Ways in which He brings you around to His way of thinking.

I mean let’s face it, if I’m praying “Thy will be done”,
I suppose 
I have to be willing to say,
“and kick my plans to the kerb if you need to Lord”.

So I’m moving. Back to the Land of our Fathers. Well the land of his fathers to be precise. I say ‘his’, not ‘His’. I’m talking about him, the husband; not Him, God. Although some Welsh folk would say both is true.

I left Wales in 2007, eager to be in Ireland with my family. I was constantly homesick, and was not able to rise above the sadness of no children, the death of my mother and what felt like an ever-increasing distance between me and my homeland. I have family and friends aplenty in Wales, but I never stopped pining for home.

I look back and I know I was immature; maybe had I been a stronger Christian I would have been able to learn ‘contentment in all situations’. I’m not beating myself up, just wondering if that’s the case.

Either way, it was with no small amount of joy that I returned to Ireland in 2007.

The Road to Wales

And now what? Well more than 7 years later I have joy at the thought of returning. I’ve had a rough year, but I’m not returning out of grief. I’m involved in lots of writing and radio; things that will not be easy to leave behind, so I’m not going out of boredom or lack of fulfilment. Things have not turned out for us work & ministry-wise the way we thought, but we’re not returning out of failure.

We’re returning because God has called us.
He has made it clear that is where he wants us. Clear as a bell, to both of us, separately, and together; with joy and peace about it. Even though I hate saying good-bye and love being near my family and involved in all the great groups I’m involved with, I still know this is the right thing for us.

So in mid December we will head back across the Irish Sea to live in Wales again.

One of my favourite verses comes to mind. I use it about my writing, but it’s about my whole life Lord unless you build this house, I am building it in vain.  (Psalm 127:1)

Crying with Laughter

I met a friend recently and the idea was that we would get together to write for a couple of hours. Spur each other on with a fantastic word count. Almost an hour and a half (and a pot of coffee with biscuits) later, we had done no writing. Well, we had not written anything down. We’d spent the time story telling.

We reminisced about family life, losing our mothers and the painful hilarity of grief.

There’s no doubt that for both of us, losing our mammies was hard. But the stories we shared about their last days and the time spent giving them their final farewell were full of laughter mixed with tears.

I think the release from grief that laughter brings, is a fantastic gift from God. I of course am sad that my mother is no longer around, but the couple of weeks before she died that I spent with my 7 siblings is very precious to me. So many people don’t get to say goodbye to loved ones. I feel very blessed that for two weeks I got to sit by my mother’s bedside and laugh and cry with my siblings as we watched her slowly drift away from us. 

I had the rare chance to sit alone with her, at this stage she wasn’t conscious. Quietly, I sang ( a very ropey version of)  ‘The Lord Bless You and Keep You’, the Rutter version, to her as she slept. It’s a precious moment that is, in equal measure joyful and painful.

Sunshine and Rain together 🙂

So much sadness, and yet we two friends were able to laugh and laugh as we remembered precious sad/funny times with people we love and the loss of the women who bore us.

I’m a firm believer that God has a sense of humour, I’ve looked in the mirror… 🙂
I think it’s a measure of his grace that He has allowed me to ease the pain of loss by giving me moments and memories that make me laugh, or at least smile.

They say you have to take the good with the bad, and the rough with the smooth – it’s so much easier when they come at the same time.

photo credit: josemanuelerre via photopin cc

Letter to 15 Year Old Me

On the About Aunty Amo page I added an option for people to ask me questions. A question that came back to me is ‘If you could write a letter to your 15 year old self what would you say to her?’ So here’s the answer… 🙂

Dear Amo

dispic me
Despicable Me

you won’t recognise me but I’m the older, bigger, more frightened, less stupid & probably at first glance, disappointing ‘you’ 27 years from now.

I doubt anything I say will change you – if mam couldn’t get through then no one will, but here’s a few things to keep in mind.

In about 7 years from now, you’ll have a religious conversion that will frighten the life out of a lot of people around you. It will really annoy others – YOU will really annoy others. It’ll take you a while to get the hang of it but you will.
Keep moving forward.

Those nieces and nephews you have… well they’ll keep coming. Every year, there’ll just be another one. And just when your brothers and sisters stop providing them, the grand nieces and nephews will start arriving. Based on the ones you have at the moment, that might sound like a nightmare (I mean they’re great – but you’re talking about another 30 or so…and counting), but believe me they’ll give your life meaning that you have no ability to understand right now. You’ll end up with lots of babies to hold; and you’re gonna need them.

You will not marry L, D or P. That will seem like a bad thing at the time. IT IS A GOOD THING! You will however marry R. 🙂 And he will think you’re wonderful. You will never get used to how wonderful he thinks you are. In fact you’ll go out of your way to prove him wrong. Try not to do that too much; he’s wonderful too.

Your heart is going to be broken; more than once. I don’t mean by L, D or P. I mean your heart is going to be almost crushed – a few times over the years. The key word here is ‘almost’. You will make it. You’ll think you won’t survive, or be happy again, or even be able to keep breathing.
You will. Honestly… listen…
Hear that? Another breath. They do keep coming.

That religious conversion I mentioned earlier? I played it down a bit but it’ll be the single most transformational thing that’ll happen to you. You’ll still end up 42, overweight, frustrated and often very sad. But you’ll have an eternal perspective on things, a hope that makes no sense, a joy that keeps you strong and a relationship with God that will LITERALLY save your life.

Oh and you’ll end up working for a guy called Rob Parsons. He will say lots of great things, but one of the things you’ll remember above all others will be,
“You’re not as great as you think you are and you’re not as bad as you think you are.”
It’ll turn out to be very helpful advice.

amo permKeep singing, keep writing & keep your chin up. Amo x

ps You were right about The Cure – amazing
pps You were wrong about the perm – disastrous