As a young teen I was always fascinated by my great aunt Lily (Anna in the book). She only came to Dallas a few times, but I remember everyone gathering around her to hear the stories of her adventures in Nigeria. Man, could she tell a story. She was just fun to be around and her commitment to the children she taught shone right through her. Everything was about getting more material, getting more books, a sewing machine, anything and everything she could get her hands on to ship back to Ogoja to help make things easier for all the people in the village. She had a great sense of humor and was always up for a practical joke. I thought she was amazing.
We wrote letters back and forth for years and I went to see her in England twice, once when Molly was still alive and once when Lily was in the senior center. When she and Molly lived together in the little retirement village, she had happy hour at her bungalow every Friday evening after mass and most of the village (including the village Priest) came by. She made her own wine and just exuded life. I would say people just enjoyed being around her. She tucked me into bed every night with a cognac that nearly seared my throat but as they said in Ogoja – I got used to it!
Eight years ago I had the pleasure of reading the book Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and it made me think of Lily. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, so I began researching Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM), Ogoja, the Kiltegan Fathers and Lily. I went through all of my mom’s old memory boxes and with the help of several cousins, gathered information regarding Lily that my aunts had saved. From there I researched everything I could find on the internet and then finally arranged a trip (with my cousin Tricia) to Drogheda, Ireland to the “mother ship” of the MMM’s. What an eye opener that trip was. I thought I would just spend a couple of hours there and research their archives for whatever I could find about Lily. The sisters there were most welcoming and very willing to help me in my endeavor. Now, Lily lived a long life, so most of the sisters who worked with her were long gone, but there were a few who worked with her and certainly almost all of them had heard of “Lily Murphy”. They were most gracious to us, and we ended up spending two full days there as we so enjoyed their company and their stories. What an amazing selfless group of women who traveled the world their entire lives to help others.
We also had the chance to meet with another second cousin Eileen Paterson & her husband Paul while we were in Ireland. I had never met either of them before, but it was like I had known Eileen for years. I had a new pen pal, and we emailed back and forth for years before she passed in 2014. She was always in my corner spurring me on to keep chugging away at the book, and I will be forever grateful to her.
***A portion of all sales will be donated to the Medical Missionaries of Mary***