June 10th 2011. This day two years ago was one of those days you never want to see. It was the day our Maria died after along battle with cancer. To say she is much missed doesn’t come close. Along with what she meant to her family and friends, she was the very heart of Geoffs Bar in Waterford city for over a quarter of a century and Geoffs was at the heart of many of our lives and now the heart has gone.
I guess I wasn’t close to Maria in the sense I didn’t spend a lot of time with her. She had her gang, her close friends, her good friends, who were with her until the end. But it would also feel odd for me to say we weren’t friends. Maria was more like family to most of us I suppose, always there, a rare constant, her sunny, toothy smile as she put a tea on the counter, before I had barely even walked in the door of Geoffs, for me, was a given.
There were other times too. Once on a crowded Saturday night, desperate for a drink to drown some awful and ridiculous calamity, I stood in the crush at the bar, miserably clutching a Southern Comfort when from the middle of the mayhem a hand appeared from over the counter, the back of it brushing my cheek even as the other hand was pulling a pint. “Are you alright girl?” Maria was there.
Years and years ago I used to sit with a mug of tea and draw…and draw….and draw. I wasn’t, to my regret now, very good at people so there are no drawings of Maria (I did attempt John Fitz, our other treasure) but she was always there so I think in one way or another she is here, in all of these pictures. She used to simultaneously berate and encourage me. “If I had your talent girl I’d be long gone out of here.” But I think we are glad she stayed. I think she was too.
She knew this bar inside and out, scrubbed its floors, rolled cigarettes on its counters, stopped to chat in Protestants corner, served tea(millions of mugs to me alone-thank you), food, beer, smiles (ah that lovely smile), advice and, where deserved-fond or not-so-fond invective over the grained wood counters to the hundreds or even thousands of us who were lucky enough to be a part of her extended family(and who didn’t eat their salad… ).
At least half of Waterford turned up at the church to say goodbye to Maria. She organised the service herself in the week before she died, the pain pushed aside by her powerful will to shoulder all burdens, her only concern to the very last was in making sure everyone else was OK. She is, and always will be, terribly missed. There was only one Maria Gaffney.
A great loss to her partner, Pascal, her Mam and Dad, her sister and brothers and all her family, her many friends and the multitude of us whose lives she touched. Thinking of you today girl.