Yesterday, the books I ordered for my launch on March 19th arrived, Norah went on Amazon for sale, and Grace Farrell, a thirty-five year old woman originally from Ireland, froze to death on the steps of St. Brighid’s Church in New York City. It was a mixed blessing day. I read about Grace and felt an immediate connection to her. One would have to be a cold-hearted zombie to not feel some emotion in response to this story. Grace had immigrant dreams, young woman dreams, and artist dreams. She left County Cork at seventeen to go to New York, the city of dreams, but plummeted into despair and death. She slept in Tompkins Square Park, died in the arms of St. Brighid, and had blue eyes that changed to green. She was homeless, but not nameless. My character, Norah McCabe, came from Cork in the midst of the Irish Hunger (referred to as the Famine), took a buggy to Tompkins Square Park, and also had blue eyes that changed to green. Many years after writing stories about Norah McCabe, I learned there was a real Norah McCabe who left Ireland in 1847 to move to New York City. I have felt this woman with me as I have traveled the arduous road to publishing her stories. I like happy endings. Who doesn’t? I’m not saying that Norah McCabe has a happy ending. Who decides what is a happy ending?My kind of happy ending might not be yours. The cynics always mock, but I choose to find happy endings everyday in my life, even in death. These endings might not be glitzy, banner waving, award-winning, Oprah sanctioned, and multi-million dollar happy. They can be light-emitting truths that point to forgiveness, beauty, and eternity. Most would say Grace Farrell did not have a happy ending. I say that she had more than one ending. And the grace from her story will unfold with compassion and empathy. Norah McCabe was also desperate and at one point in her life, she sat in her cramped, impoverished tenement apartment and uttered a prayer to St. Brighid:
“A light and fairy-like prayer for the hearth, words silk-like and worn smooth in the Irish language came humming into her mind and upon her lips. It was a prayer invoking St. Brighid that poured out of her in one powerful exhalation:
Brighid of the Mantle encompass us, Lady of the Lambs protect us…Beneath your mantle, gather us and restore us to memory…”
May Grace Farrell be restored in the arms of eternity and may Norah McCabe’s story ignite grace for the dreams of immigrants, women, and all.
Cynthia GRACE Neale