Eileen Hughes Webber: Newry-born nurse gave her heart and soul in care of others
EILEEN Hughes Webber was a Newry rose who gave her heart and soul in the service and care of others.
Born in 1967, her mother Dorothy remembers fondly how in her youth she aspired to become either a nurse or teacher.
Thankfully she chose nursing, as she brought so much joy and comfort to so many people during her short life.
Educated at St Claire’s Primary School and Sacred Heart Grammar, Eileen joined the student nursing intake at the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in 1987.
Northern Ireland was then a very different place, and the 19-year-olds had to mature very quickly, both professionally and personally, as they cared for those affected by the Troubles.
However, Eileen shared many happy times too, living with her student colleagues in the RVH “Towers” at the bottom of Broadway and heading to the nurses' disco at the Wellington Park Hotel on a Wednesday night.
Nursing jobs were in short supply in those days and so Eileen took the brave step of heading to London to seek work.
As a staff nurse in the world renowned neuro-surgical unit at St Bart’s Hospital she developed new skills and nursed some famous people such as the boxer Michael Watt.
Eileen found her niche caring for people affected by cancer and after a couple of years, she moved to work in St James's Hospital in Leeds, caring for children in oncology.
Her mum remembers how she rang one day to ask her to keep her riding hat for one of the children - her kindness was immeasurable.
From there she went to York and on to Lancaster where she married and settled, becoming nurse manager in the oncology unit.
Eileen loved her work and was devoted to her two children but her life would be cut short aged 52.
A friend in England, Jason White, wrote movingly of his admiration for her in a letter to her family in Newry.
He described her as a "guiding light with such a wonderful sense of humour".
"You never ceased to amaze us with your ability to talk to those who were the most needy and just wanted someone to listen or offer a helping hand. We were in awe of your unselfishness and capacity to give so unconditionally," he said.
"The hours you spent on the Macmillan Cancer wards at Lancaster, Jimmy’s and Bart’s hospitals listening to and sharing the pain of family members who were suffering from the loss of their own loved ones, and returning home shattered after 12-hour shifts.
"We will never forget you. In a world of so much division and uncertainty you were a beacon of light in all that is unselfish and humane.
"I want say thank you for the way you brightened our lives, even though God granted you but half a life. We will all feel cheated always that you were taken from us and yet we must learn to be grateful that you came along at all.
"Only now that you are gone do we truly appreciate what we are now without and we want you to know now that life is bereft of your beautiful soul."
Eileen Hughes Webber died on July 22 in Lanchester and was laid to rest in her home town of Newry at St Marys Church. A memorial Mass was also held for her in Lancaster this month.
She is survived by her children Jamie and Kerry, parents James and Dorothy Hughes and siblings Martin, Jim, Gary and Christine.