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~ The year that had everything ~1998 was one of the most eventful and action packed years of my life… great highs, great lows and great adventures. It had joy, love, travel, death, grief, a whirlwind of emotion, my first panic attack and my own near miss experience. 1998 was a whopper!It started on a high with a clean bill of health for my mother with an all-clear cancer diagnosis, which gave my parents the confidence and gumption to take to the roads, travelling and gallivanting and taking time to smell the roses. I was 21 and living in Wellpark in Galway and enjoying the good life. I had great friends and it was also the year my, now husband, first asked me out. I was flying high and in April I got the opportunity to travel to America with work and live in Minneapolis for a few months, I jumped at the chance. Minneapolis, is in the state of Minnesota which is in the upper Midwest and known for its Great Lakes and of course the largest shopping mall in the country, ‘The Mall of America’ – that place was so big it was built on an Aquarium and had an indoor theme park in the middle! A big change from the shopping centres we had at home, mind you, everything was very different. The local movie theatre to our apartment was as big as the Savoy in Dublin and was always packed.In Ireland at that time, everything revolved around drink for a 21 year old, but stateside our peers had other stuff to do and it was enlightening. We went bowling after work or ice-skating or shopping or exploring. You might have a few beers, but it was while you were doing something else. No one went to a pub where you just sat down and drank! The culture was completely different. We had picnics and barbecues at the weekend in the Parks or took off sightseeing. Travelling was so easy on good roads and getting on a plane was as easy a hopping on a bus, of course that all changed after 9/11, but in 1998 it really was hassle-free to visit another state… and visit we did.The first place we went was ‘The Big Apple’, I had friends from home living in the Bronx so it was a perfect opportunity to catch up with them and of course hit Chris Murphy up for a place to stay!! Chris was our guide for the weekend and took us around Manhattan to do all the touristy must-sees. It was the May bank holiday weekend at home and Galway were meeting Mayo in the Connaught Final. It was a great novelty getting up at 6am and heading to a pub in Queens to watch the match. I wore every morsel of Mayo colours I could find and spent the day bantering with Christina McCabe, who was dressed up like a beacon for the other side in her Maroon & White! On that occasion I fail to remember who had the last laugh… ahemmm


!!!On a side note, my dad was well known at home for his garage and his tractors and cars etc. and we used to always laugh that no matter where we went, and said we were from Shrule, very often we were asked if we knew Bill Hyland? Aka daddy… Well when an old man in a bar in the Bronx asked me, the same question, I could hardly believe it. My dad was a humble man, but he got a great kick out of that story! The Irish community was strong in the Bronx and we were shown a fabulous time by the Shrule and Caherlistrane contingency there.Another weekend we hit for Chicago as we had heard about a big Irish “Fleadh Cheoil” that was happening there in the Windy City. Now, up to that point I had Irish set-danced for years in Fleadh Cheoils across Connaught, but I never seen anything like the celebrations of Ireland that happened that weekend in Chicago!!! We were treated to magnificent concerts in this humongous field with amazing artists like Shane McGowan and the Pogues, Altan, The Chieftains, The Corrs, Mary Black, The SawDoctors, and Sinéad O’Connor who if the field had had a roof, she would have blown it to smithereens with the power of her voice! There were other amazing artists there too like Tracy Chapman, which made me very happy… it was the experience of a lifetime, lying in a field in Chicago all decked out like an Irish flag and enjoying the best of musicians. We were so proud of our Irishness!Now of course, all of this travelling came with its own problems too… and one of the most stand out incidents was a bad car crash that we got into. There were five of us in a car and I was in the middle of the backseat. By the Grace of God, I was wearing a seatbelt as it wasn’t as typical, believe it or not, to wear one in those days. Cars rarely beeped to remind you and there was a mentality of not needing one for a short journey – bizarre I know! Well this day, our car left the road and dived nose first into a deep ditch full of water! I flew forward so fast that the front drivers seat took some skin off my face with the friction! Carpet burn I guess you’d call it, but on my face. My life flashed before my eyes. Thankfully after the shock we were all able to get out and climb onto the roof and back up onto the road to call for help. The car was the only casualty of the ordeal. I had a massive panic attack that night, the likes of which I had never experienced before, but there was one thing for sure, I now knew for certain that I had good guardian angels around me… and a sturdy seatbelt. I never again sat in a car without a seatbelt, even to drive around my own yard, I don’t need a flashing bell on my dashboard to remind me of its value. The last holiday I booked was one to Orlando, Florida and it was memorable for so many different reasons. I also need to say we travelled there for the Fourth of July celebrations and it was one of the hottest Julys on record, to the point that as we were heading back to Minneapolis after our trip, the Florida bush had caught fire from the power of the sun & humidity! It literally was a Scorcher and you’d easily fry an egg on the pavement! Despite the heat on our pasty fair skin, ten of us Irish heads, in our twenties, headed into Disney to meet Cinderella and Mickey Mouse and crew and ride the roller coasters… we had a wild laugh, but it was a stark contrast to what was going on at home. My mother had been re-diagnosed with cancer and now word had just come through that my dad’s mam, my Granny, Peggy Hyland had just passed away. For my entire life, I had rang my mammy every day and it was she who told me as the fireworks bursted out over the night sky in Universal Studios. I never felt so far away from home. It was bittersweet. Granny had been unwell for a long time, but between that and my mam’s returning illness, my heart was beginning to yearn to go home. I was never certain if they were telling me the whole truth down the phone line when I couldn’t see their faces. There was no ‘FaceTime’ in those days, in fact, it was a very different world with no World Wide Web to speak of; America seemed so far advanced of us in the Emerald Isle technology wise. Movies that were released in the states would take nine months to a year before they were released at home… one such movie being ‘City of Angels’ with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan. I remember completely falling in love with the sound track of the movie and following bands like The Goo Goo Dolls, Paula Cole and Sarah McLachlan afterwards. I bought every Sarah McLachlan album before I went home as I knew I never wanted to be without her voice again and she was virtually unknown at home at that point.July ended with me touching down in Shannon on home soil at 6am and my sister collecting me from the airport. My mam was in ‘The Regional’ and I wanted to surprise her so I hadn’t told her I was coming home. I remember it was a Sunday morning and it was just after 8am and the wards of UHG were very quiet as I walked down the long corridor to where her room was. I immediately regretted my choice of noisy heels as it wasn’t visiting hours, and I shouldn’t have been there, but I just couldn’t wait. By the time I got to her bed she was sitting up stretching her neck looking out for me! I said you were expecting me, and she said, I wasn’t, but I recognised your footsteps coming down the hall! I was in awe that she knew me that well.On the 7th of September, 1998, my Mam lost her battle with cancer on her 32nd wedding anniversary. We all got different jobs for the funeral and my job was to organise the music. I asked the lovely Conroy ladies to sing in the Church for the funeral ceremony and Yvonne and I went through every hymn. I am a sucker for the details and I really wanted to do my mother justice. Music to me, was always a powerful conduit to carry intentions and sentiments correctly so song choice was important. A song can hit a spot! Mam loved “Our Lady” and she loved to visit Knock Shrine, so the hymn ‘Our Lady of Knock’ was an obvious choice. Every song was important and Yvonne was a good friend and a patient woman as we got it just right. Then there was the after-communion bit! This is the part of the ceremony where everyone is sitting down and the family often add something a little extra to tribute to the person’s life.I hadn’t written a poem. I had many I had written her while she was living, but nothing to capture this moment. Like a bolt of lightning I remembered Sarah McLachlan and “Angel”. I knew most people wouldn’t have heard it, but something told me to use it. I gave the CD to Yvonne and she took care of it. I will never forget sitting in the front seat beside my dad as the song started to ring out from the balcony in St. Joseph’s Church in Shrule. Sarah never sounded so piercing, you could hear a pin drop in the congregation. My dad was in his own world and didn’t even know there was music playing. I remember edging forward on the seat and getting very anxious, almost like the start of a mini panic attack… I was so exhausted and confused from the events of the few days previous and I started to really doubt that my choice of song. It felt so long and I thought it would never end. I knew it was different and I worried that no one would like it. I wanted to do her justice, but the emotion was catching up on me, and I couldn’t fathom my own thinking, my nerves were shot! I needn’t have stressed as the song hit the mark like a bullseye… people were blown away by it and loved it. So many people said it summed her up appropriately. In the weeks that followed, I had to get my friends in America to send several copies for all sorts of people who asked me could I get them a copy.I felt my shoulders drop in relief. When dad died in 2000, he had exactly the same music arrangement, but by then ‘City of Angels’ was released in Europe and everyone fell in love with Sarah McLachlan just as I had. It will forever be a powerfully personal and emotive song for me and transports me to another place and time within the first few bars. Music has the ability to stir up memories like nothing else because beautiful melodies speak the language of the soul


1998, you were a rare one.Sarah McLachlan – Angel –