Home' Aurora : Aurora November 2013 Contents All Souls Day is celebrated on 2 November, and this
feast inaugurates a month when Christians are invited to
remember "those who have gone before us". One local
family remembers all year round in a simple but very
Clem and Carmel O'Brien live on their own patch of
paradise. Formerly dairy farmers, they now graze cattle
on their property. Clem has lived on this land since his
birth 84 years ago. Their 'sacred ground' is at Millers
Forest, near Raymond Terrace, along the banks of the
Hunter River. One feature of the farm is a grove of fig
trees which bears unusual significance.
The couple has been married 61 years and has seven
surviving children. Sadly, their second daughter Marie-
Therese died two years ago from complications caused
by Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Carmel says, "She was
diagnosed with MS when she was 21. She was 30 when
she went into a wheelchair and she died when she was
48, after 18 years in a wheelchair."
Clem and Carmel have many memories of her scattered
throughout their home, but the most substantial memorial
of Marie-Therese is her own fig tree, which carries a
plaque bearing the names of all her nieces and nephews.
Clem says, "I'm a tree man, I love trees." It was natural
then to plant this grove of fig trees near their home in
January 2000 to celebrate the turn of the century and to
"remember the O'Briens."
The fig trees are tall, strong and healthy, developing into
the beautiful giants they will eventually become as the
years pass. "They're an evergreen tree and a clean tree
and the birds love them," Clem adds.
The trees claim another privilege, commemorating not
only Marie-Therese, but also Carmel and Clem's late
parents. Then there is a tree for themselves as well as
for each of their children, their families, their much-loved
twenty grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Clem says, "Marie-Therese loved all the kids and they
all loved her." Each tree bears a plaque commemorating
each sibling in order, from eldest to youngest; therefore
Marie-Therese is surrounded by her grandparents,
parents, siblings, nephews and nieces.
At Christmas time, each family decorates its fig tree,
and a little friendly rivalry ensues to see whose is best
festooned. Everyone helps to adorn Marie-Therese's tree.
Now the great-grandchildren are arriving, the plaques
will soon be temporarily removed from their home on the
fig trees to be updated; the eleventh tree has already
been reserved for Clem and Carmel's great-great-
These hardy spreading trees are a tribute to the past and
a living memorial to Marie-Therese. They play a resilient
role in the lives of the present families as well as provide
shade and shelter to both people and birds.
The families they symbolise will expand and remain
strong, perfectly imitating these fig trees. They guarantee
future branches of the O'Brien family tree will be
represented on the land where they have lived for five
BY TRISH BOGAN
St Mary's Gateshead was the secondary winner in Lake
Macquarie Council's Schools Environment Awards. Pictured
(l-r) teacher Maryanne Murray, Bradley Cox, Bethany Bailey,
Emma Gearing, Connor Burge and Mayor Jodie Harrison.
Debutantes and partners with matron of honour Sue
Whitaker at Cessnock Catholic Ball. Photo courtesy of Nicole
(l-r) Tia Langdon, Macy Carter, Shelby Hammond and Assistant
Principal Jacqui Wilkinson participated in Shelby's initiative
"Wacky Wednesday" to raise funds for, and awareness of,
members of the St Brigid's Raymond Terrace community living
The O'Brien clan gathered under one of their memorial figs, grateful for the shade on a very hot day!
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
SEASONS OF GRACE
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