Today we broken heartedly bade ‘God speed’ to a deeply loved wife, mother, sister and aunt, much loved colleague and highly respected teacher Ms Geraldine Barry. A huge void will forever be left in Scoil Mhuire. There is a vacuum of disbelief and a personal sense of emptiness we feel as a school community. We have lost a teacher who discharged her duties with dash and joy, a truly wonderful human being who was an inspiration to all, a woman of steadiness, calm and a cheerful confidence, an invigorating presence in our lives. During her 24 years as a colleague Geraldine displayed boundless passion and an unrelenting devotion for her profession. She carved relationships with her students effortlessly and fostered their desire to learn with her vibrant and vivacious manner. Through her passion for English she introduced students to life itself with all its tragedy as well as its possibilities. She was a truly exceptional teacher whose judgement, charisma, creativity and personality helped create a special connection with students which is the centrepiece of educational success.
As a departmental colleague of Geraldine, working closely by her side for those 24 years, I know that she did best what English teachers strive to do, teach to make a fundamental difference in students’ lives. Ger worked to fulfill that purpose every day. She always knew her own mind and had firm principles on which she acted decisively. She was never baffled or overwhelmed, she always knew instinctively what to do, how to teach, it was not a job but a calling. She was far more than just an educator or imparter of knowledge, she inspired students to be curious, honest and to persevere. She gave them the life tools they needed to succeed and nurtured their confidence to question and evaluate. She valued her students for their uniqueness and strengths and promoted an environment where they felt like they could not only share their contributions but also know it was considered and appreciated. This is what a brilliant English teacher is, a mentor who encourages big questions and more expansive thinking and makes students capable of facing and solving the challenges which may come and helping them become contributing members of society and good human beings. Empowering students to own their learning helped them become makers, dreamers, builders and thinkers, her legacy will last far far longer than her brief stay on earth. Through English, students received guidance and insight so profound that it made an indelible imprint on them as evidenced in the many comments of admiration on Facebook for their beloved teacher. This is the beauty of being an English teacher, a privilege Geraldine relished.
Geraldine was a positive, caring and generous spirit who gave of her time and expertise without hesitation to students and staff alike, her genuine, warm, far-sighted and respectful ways were always appreciated. She was innovative, compassionate and a real visionary who enriched all our lives. Always urging and encouraging, what she brought to Scoil Mhuire is immeasurable. She had a passion for her field of study, a genuine care for the growth of her students and always gave straight, thoughtful feedback, laced with enough encouragement to neutralise any feeling of defeatism. Some teachers just simply have it, the x-factor, the ability to find a permanent place in students’ memories. Everything Ger did and said had a little bit of magic about it. She was a chariot of fire, a gift from God. Our school and our lives were blessed to have such an incredible presence, wise counsel, keen, vigorous and rigorous mind on our staff and her loss is deeply felt. She had a wonderful sense of humour, sharp wit and a way of focusing on someone with total attention, a gift of herself that she gave to us with intelligence and energy and we owe her a huge debt of gratitude. Her strength as a person was expressed through the remarkable quality of her dealings with people, her ability to make encounters, however fleeting, feel both special and personal. She graced Scoil Mhuire and graced our lives.
To Paul, Ruth, David and the Barry and Nihill families, thank you for the wonderful gift of Geraldine. The whole school community offers its deepest sympathy. We share in your sorrow for what should have been. There was so much more for her to do, her life was mid-story and her not being with us is a blow most terrible. She often spoke lovingly of her wonderful husband and her children whose love she could always depend on and whose love she returned in full measure. Her love for her family was deep and unqualified. You are in our thoughts and cradled in our prayers. Thank you for lending her to us. The light that was Geraldine shone in this school for 24 years and it was no ordinary light. She was the very essence of style and beauty with a natural nobility and a sparkle in those unforgettable eyes filled with boundless energy which she could barely contain. She brought to the staff room a rich sense of fun and joy and the music of laughter. With that went an immense vitality and genuine caring nature, qualities which clothed her life richly and made her a very singular human being.
‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled’. Geraldine selflessly kindled this fire in hundreds of students, unmindful of receiving credit or applause. She lit in her students a fire for literature and history. Thank you Geraldine for inspiring others to achieve the greatness you had. Out there in the world new fires spring up to illuminate the way and your inspired students, full of life and breath, roam and grow. This is where your legacy lies. We can be better because you existed, ‘unable are the loved to die for love is immortality’. The powerful play goes on and you Geraldine, have contributed a most terrific scene.
Though we need to weep your loss,You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.
Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.
The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.
Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.
Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.
We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.
Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.
Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.
When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.