I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who would want today to be a celebration of their life more than Jean Mulhern (Aunt Jean to me). Of course we are solemn, and we are sad, but Aunt Jean would want us to remember her as she was, someone who lived a wonderful, joyous life.
When I remember Aunt Jean, I’ll think of New York City. Aunt Jean loved New York, she loved taking advantage of everything her city had to offer. From Broadway shows to bible study, dinners at her favorite restaurants or just walking around and finding a new book or a piece of art, Aunt Jean loved experiencing new things and new people. If there’s one thing maybe we can all take away from Aunt Jean’s life, it’s to follow her lead and experience life every day.
I’ll always remember my conversations with her. Whether you were a family member, one of her many close friends from the roof, a doorman in her building or someone she just met, she wanted to know what was going on in your life. And if you didn’t get to see her in person, you were sure to get a phone call to check in. No matter the situation, whether it was personal or professional, Aunt Jean always had an anecdote or a suggestion from her life. Anyone who knew Jean treasured these conversations, I know I always will.
And of course, anyone who knew Jean Mulhern will always think of Thanksgiving. She hosted Thanksgiving for over 60 years, from Brooklyn to Yorkville. I don’t know if I’ll have a more consistent memory in my life than Thanksgiving at Aunt Jean’s. Over the years we learned to love mashed turnips and creamed onions, and Aunt Jean’s neighbors and friends began to feel like family. Aunt Jean loved bringing people together.
As we gather today to remember and celebrate the life of Jean Mulhern, I keep coming back to the Irish Blessing. It encapsulates the person Jean was, and can give us all comfort for today and every day to follow
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sunshine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Brian P. Veeder, Jean’s great nephew