Many of my earliest memories growing up took place in Dublin, over trips to visit with my dad’s side of the family. I have one in particular at my Aunt Cece’s house, where I was about 4 or 5 years old and I kept asking her to let me go back out into her yard so I could look at her flower beds. This was just before my parents stopped bringing me and my brother to Ireland, so I didn’t see my Aunt Cece again for 15 years. When I came back to Dublin for the first time last year, she dragged me around the city and taught me everything, from the bus routes to which tarot card readers were worth seeing. She was my favorite aunt in Ireland, so I felt that she would be the best candidate to focus my post for #WeldonWednesdays and #IrishRoots on this week.
Celia Farrelly (nee Weldon) was born on July 25, 1959 to my grandparents, Jack and Mary Weldon, in East Wall, Dublin. One of 7 children, she had a twin brother named Kenneth. Cece and Ken were close from the start, with the type of sibling bond that only twins could have. She had many interests, such as astrology, writing short stories, crocheting and knitting, and reading Sylvia Plath. She didn’t drink very often, but her favorite drink was Bailey’s. She had 3 children; Tricia, John, and Ally. Incredibly, not only was Cece a twin, but her youngest children (John and Ally) are twins as well. She loved animals, especially the family’s 2 pets (John’s dog and Ally’s cat). She kept a beautiful home for her family that she was always proud of. My grandmother, who I called Nanny, had dementia and Cece took loving care of her. She and her mother were very close. A strong Irish woman, she took care of her children, mother and home by herself.
She left school very young, as most women in Ireland did back then. Because of this, Cece knew the value in a good education. She would look at the examples on her children’s homework and work backwards from the answers given, trying to figure out how to solve the problems so she could help her kids learn. She would find recordings of programs that would help her children study for their leaving certification and tape them on the TV so they could watch them. With little education of her own and 3 children to raise and support, she worked in a factory and minded children. Despite the circumstances, my cousin Tricia describes Cece as a loving and supportive mother who wasn’t very strict. Tricia says, “she was always very positive, like if you got the worst news in the world, it wouldn’t be a problem. It could be fixed.” She once heard that eating fish was good for children’s brain development, so she would feed my cousins fish in every form she could think of. She took many drastic little measures to make sure each of them would grow up to be highly intelligent. Because of her support, all 3 of Cece’s children have degrees and she was incredibly proud of them for it. In fact, there was nothing she was prouder of than having raised my cousins into great people.
Although Cece didn’t have much, she had no regard for money and would give everything she had, especially to her children. Tricia tells me, “she’d spend on us quicker than herself.” She was hospitable to anyone who needed a place to stay, taking in many relatives (including my parents, for months at a time) when they needed a roof over their heads. When her brother Ken fell ill with tongue cancer in the summer of 2016, Cece (who was ill herself) took him in and took care of him always. Ken was a highly private man and didn’t want people to know of his diagnosis, so Cece kept his secret to help relieve his stress. She was very good at keeping secrets, so you could always talk to her about anything. While he was in hospice, Cece was in the hospital for 6 weeks, but still made sure to do whatever she could to help him out. Ken passed away in June of 2018, after Cece had taken care of him through his illness for 2 years. She missed him terribly and always kept a framed portrait of him.
Cece was always very patient with those around her. Even if people just kept pestering her, she was always kind-hearted and forgiving. She gave many people many chances and even though some would let her down time and time again, she kept her heart and her home open for them. She always looked toward the future with an overwhelming positivity, finding enjoyment in things such as tarot cards. She was very caring to her loved ones and would remember the little details about them. When I came to visit her for the first time in 15 years, she got me a black forest cake. She asked if I liked it, and I told her I did, so every time I saw her after that she made a point to make sure she got me one. Not long after I arrived in Ireland a few weeks ago, I went to visit her in the hospital. She was very sick at the time, but she said to my cousin to make sure to get me a black forest cake. Even as she fought illness, her hospitality for others was still a priority to her. On her death bed, she still radiated her characteristic positivity. To check her vitals, a nurse would ask her questions. She asked, “where are you?” and Cece told her “Beaumont Hospital.” When the nurse asked her “what are you here for?” Cece said, “well it’s not the porridge.” She was incredibly witty and never panicked.
Cece passed away on September 1, 2019; just a week after I returned to Ireland. Wherever I go in Dublin, I find little memories of her from my visits over the past year. I pass bars and pubs where she got me too many cocktails, donut shops where she got me too many donuts, the tarot card readers she brought me to, and the bus stop on Griffith Avenue that she would use to get into town. For me, my Aunt Cece is the heart of Dublin, and there are pieces of her all over the city. My dad will always miss coming home to visit his favorite sister. He recalls, “Cece never said an unkind word about anyone. She was 100 percent trustworthy. She loved to watch Shirley Temple when she was a kid, and Little House on the Prairie. She liked the simple things in life, and she loved her children more than anything else in the world.” My mom remembers Cece not only as a sister-in-law, but a very close friend. She says she’ll miss how Cece was so up to date with current affairs, always screenshotting the news and passing it on to her over Facebook. I will always hold fond memories of my Aunt Cece in my heart whenever I’m in Ireland (or whenever I have black forest cake).