Dead Lines

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:

“Will we get the Irish Times or the Independent?”  “Get the Indo; More people die in it!”

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! 😉

18 thoughts on “Dead Lines

  1. gigi-hawaii

    What a great sense of humor you have! In my case, I instructed my hubby and kids: No funeral for me. Cremate me and just have a private burial service with only my immediate family present. If people want to see me, they should have done so before I died!

  2. The Laughing Housewife

    Wonderful post! We take death far too seriously, I find.

    The priest at my mother’s funeral called her by the wrong name and, after a moment of shocked silence, we all burst out laughing.

  3. Grannymar Post author

    gigi-hawaii – Growing up in the middle of four brothers certainly help with my sense of humour.

    Tilly – I have come across the incorrect names being used on occasions. One time we had the incorrect name on a coffin lid, after a discrete check to see if the contents were that of the correct body, we swiftly covered the name plaque with an arrangement of flowers. Thankfully nobody noticed.

    Ramana – ‘What will you do with Live Lines?’ Hang the washing on them, maybe? *runs away to hide*

  4. Grannymar Post author

    Judy – They sure are!

    Padmini – Who knows, I might be the one to kick the bucket first!

  5. wisewebwoman

    Very clever use of the word, GM.

    On a more sombre note I was at a wake yesterday. He had suffered from MDS. Left wife and two small children. 47 yo.

    But absolutely worst sight was his mother in a wheelchair in front of the casket, crying.

    I came away from there with a brand new appreciation for life.


  6. Grannymar Post author

    WWW – Sometimes we are made aware of the cruelty of death and there is no room for laughter. I read today about an elderly man in Belfast who lived alone and opened his door to a bogus caller, only to be beaten to death for the pittance of his pension.

  7. Alice

    I remember wakes from my childhood but the corpse was always laid out in the coffin in the living room, and someone was ALWAYS in company of the deceased even if no one was there–as it usually was after 10 p.m. or so, endless cups of coffee (to keep awake), hushed voices, and I can’t tell you the number of times I heard that same comment, “he looks exactly like himself.” In this country, that had more to do with the art of the makeup and wax than the ravages of whatever caused the end. Trouble was, more often people were overdressed and overdone, looking nothing at all like their real selves, but more like “models” of the way they might have wished to look. I like funeral stories.

  8. Maria from Silver Fox

    After attending a funeral where the floral arrangements were extremely abundant, my father announced to our family, “When I die, I want two bouquets only. One at the head and one at the foot of the coffin. That way, I will be the center attraction.”

    You are always so clever and I love how you found this interesting twist to deadlines.

  9. Delirious

    I recently played the organ for the funeral of a man I didn’t know. A man got up and told how the deceased cousin had once come to his home in Idaho on a small motorcycle. He told this man to jump on the back of his bike, that he was taking him to “cool school” in the San Francisco area. This man was wearing a pair of cut off shorts, and a pair of flip flops. He had nothing else with him, but he got on the motorcycle anyway. He said that he had a wonderful month there, and that indeed, the cousin had taken him to “cool school” during his visit. 🙂

  10. Grannymar Post author

    Pseu – 😉 😀

    Alice – I have given Elly instructions – Box me up and close the lid, and NO wasting money on flowers, thank you. Cremate me fast and then go party and think happy thoughts.

    Maria SF – I like your late father’s humour. I think there are better ways to remember the deceased than with cut flowers. Thankfully these days we often see ‘Donations in lieu’ and the name of a favourite charity at the end of a funeral notice. It is totally optional whether a mourner donates or not.

    Delores – Interesting story. I am always fascinated at these little windows that open to a life that most people are unaware of.

  11. Maxi

    Your story was going well, Grannymar, until … “She looks like herself.”
    That brought the first laugh, now It’s hard to stop.

    Thanks for the tickle in my day.
    Blessings – Maxi

  12. Grannymar Post author

    Maxi – If I am honest…. I almost wet myself that day when I heard it…. and I don’t mean tears! 😉

  13. speccy

    At my father’s wake, there was a time when only my mum and a local businessman were with the remains in the bedroom. The poor man was obviously struggling for something to say when his mouth opened and out fell the words ‘We have that headboard…’


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