When my mother died, my sister decided to wake her.
Don’t be daft, she didn’t shout and shake her arm. No. She decided to have a modern version of an Irish Wake. It is a little different to the old traditional Irish Wake where the proceedings resembled a big party, and the only one without a hangover a week later, was the deceased. The modern day drink and drive laws put paid to much of that.
Often on such occasions, the family will find that friends & neighbours appear as if by magic, the house is cleaned from top to bottom and every surface of the kitchen and beyond is weighed down with more food and drink than you would find in a 3* Michelin restaurant.
People gather to offer condolences to the bereaved and remember the life of the deceased. There may be tears, but there’s plenty of laughter as well, as all the funny stories, happy times, and triumphs of the dearly departed are shared and recorded in the memories of the living.
Sometimes the words spoken with sombre sincerity, can provide the best laughs for the bereaved.
My siblings and I took our turn to answer the call of the door bell, and welcome the latest batch of condolence carriers. There were handshakes and hugs with the usual automatic mutterings of “Sorry for your troubles”. On one such occasion it fell to me to welcome an elderly couple who lived nearby. We addressed each other by name and since some Irish people are squeamish about seeing a dead body, I needed to warn them that mammy was laid out inside in the bed. Yes. That Bed.
“Mammy is in here”, I said. “Would you like to see her”?
“Oh yes!” came a speedy reply. Well come on now, who wants to miss the star attraction of the show! 😉
So there they were standing at the side of the bed with reverently bowed heads and shuffling of beads, before crossing themselves and reaching out in unison to touch mammy’s forehead and hand. With another nod of the head the lady looked up at me and quietly said:
“She looks like herself!”
Sixteen years later, I still wonder how I managed to keep a straight face.
Then there was the usual remark that came from another caller: “You look just like your mother.” This one was hard to take, although I had heard it all my life and still do even to this day. The problem on that occasion was that the waxen figure with the sunken face, no more resembled Mammy, for me or for any of my siblings. Even though we had all increased our stock of grey hair and lines etched into our faces, over the ten weeks since mammy had a stroke, I hope that I didn’t resemble the death mask in the bed.
Serious utterances I have heard down the years at other funerals include:
“He makes a lovely corpse.”
“If she was only here, sure she could tell the story better herself.”
“I like a black car, it looks good at a funeral.”
Overheard in Easons this week and shared by @paddyanglican:
Quick as a whippet, @primal sneeze came back with:
‘Catholics die in the Independent. Church of Ireland die in the Irish Times. Safer to read the Farmers Journal – no one dies in it!
So go on now, tell me, have you been to any good funerals lately? Do you have an interesting anecdote to share?
I’m hoping that Padmini won’t kill me for massacring her topic of Deadlines… sure you know me…. I like short wurds! 😉 Now it is time to tip toe along quietly to see if the other active members have reached their deadlines. Anu, Delirious, Maxi, Maria/Gaelikaa, Maria SilverFox, OCD writer, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, Shackman speaks, The Old Fossil, Will Knott..
No noise back there, or you’ll waken the dead! 😉