U2 frontman Bono recalls the harrowing scene when, aged just 14, he was called into a Dublin hospital room to say his last goodbye to his mother, Iris.
n an excerpt from his new memoirs, Surrender: 40 songs, one story released this week New Yorker Magazine, Bono recalls walking into his mother’s hospital room with his older brother Norman.
He writes: “I enter the room at war with the universe, but Iris looks peaceful. It’s hard to imagine that a large part of her is already gone. We hold her hand. There’s a clicking noise, but we don’t hear it.”
Before he goes into the sickroom, he notices Iris’ younger sister Ruth standing outside the room, “crying, with my father (Bob), whose eyes have less life in them than my mother’s”.
Three days earlier, Iris collapsed at the funeral of her own father “Gags” Rankin.
Bono recalls his grandfather’s funeral and writes: “I see my father carrying my mother in his arms through a crowd like a white billiard ball scattering a colored triangle. He rushes to take her to the hospital. She has collapsed beside the grave as her own father is lowered into the ground. “Iris passed out. Iris passed out.”
“The voices of my aunts and cousins waft through the leaves like a breeze. ‘She’s going to be fine, she just passed out.’ Before I or anyone else can think, my dad has Iris in the back seat of the Hillman Avenger with my brother Norman at the wheel.”
He continues: “I stay with my cousins to say goodbye to my grandfather and then we all shuffle back to my grandmother’s tiny red brick house at 8 Cowper Street, where the tiny kitchen has become a factory making sandwiches , biscuits and tea are made . This two-up two-down with an outdoor bathroom seems to hold thousands of people.
“Even though it’s Grandpa’s funeral and Iris passed out, we’re kids, cousins, running around laughing. Until Ruth, my mother’s younger sister, bursts through the door. “Iris is dying. She had a stroke.”
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“Everyone crowds around. Iris is one of eight from #8; five girls and three boys. They cry, wail, struggle to stand. Someone will notice I’m here too. I’m fourteen and strangely calm. I tell my mother’s sisters and brothers that everything will be fine.”
Bono explains that his mother was a Rankin and “of the five Rankin sisters, three died of an aneurysm. Including Iris”.
Bono previously wrote, “I have very few memories of my mother, Iris. Neither did my older brother Norman. The simple explanation is that she was never spoken of again in our house after her death.
“I’m afraid it was worse than that. That we rarely thought of her again.
“We were three Irish men and we avoided the pain we knew would come from thinking and talking about them.”
In a loving, humorous portrayal of his mother, he recalls Iris laughing: “Her humor is as black as her dark locks. Inappropriate laughter was her weakness.”
He remembers one such moment at home.
“I remember being in the kitchen, watching Iris ironing my brother’s school uniform, the faint hum of my father’s electric drill from upstairs where he was hanging a homemade shelf. Suddenly the sound of his voice, screaming. An inhuman sound, an animal sound. ‘Iris! Iris! Call an ambulance!’
“As we ran to the bottom of the stairs we found him at the top, power tool in hand, having apparently poked his own crotch. His teeth had slipped off and he was frozen stiff with fear that he might never be stiff again. ‘I got neutered!’ he cried.
“I was shocked to see my dad, the giant at 10 Cedarwood Road, fallen like a tree. And I didn’t know what that meant. Iris knew what it meant and she was shocked too, but that wasn’t her expression.
“The look on her face was the look of a beautiful woman holding back laughter, then the look of a beautiful woman not holding back laughter as it gripped her. Laughter like that of a brave girl in church whose efforts not to commit sacrilege only erupt louder when it finally arrives.
“She grabbed the phone but couldn’t bring it together to dial 999; she bent over laughing. Da made it through his flesh wound. Their marriage survived the incident. The memory made it home.”
Bono says his mother “only heard me sing in public once.”
He writes: “I played the pharaoh in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. It was really the role of an Elvis impersonator, so that’s what I did. Dressed in one of my mother’s white pantsuits with some silver sequins glued on, I pursed my lips and brought the house down. Iris laughed and laughed. She seemed surprised that I could sing, that I was musical.”
The excerpt will be out this week New Yorker ahead of a sold-out performance by Bono at the New York Festival on October 7, where Bono is interviewed live on stage at a New York venue by the magazine’s editor, David Remnick.
Surrender: 40 songs, one story which will contain 40 chapters, each named after a U2 song, is scheduled for release on November 1st.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/iris-is-dying-shes-had-a-stroke-bono-recalls-saying-goodbye-to-his-mother-on-her-deathbed-days-after-she-fainted-at-her-fathers-funeral-42001533.html “Iris is dying. She had a stroke’ – Bono recalls saying goodbye to his mother on her deathbed days after she fainted at her father’s funeral