My best friend's dad died on the shortest day of the year, unexpectedly after a short illness. He was aged 73, and it came as a shock to his wife, three daughters and son.
I visited yesterday to offer my condolences and to give a hand, as he is being waked at home. It's amazing to see the kindness of neighbours, friends and relations as they arrive with sandwiches, tins of biscuits, tea bags, crockery or even entire meals. All the visiting women take turns and muck in at the kitchen sink: filling up the urn with water; wetting and drawing tea; washing tea-cups and keeping the smooth wheels of domesticity running as the family come to terms with their loss.
I think there's something very special about a home wake for the recently departed: they are still very much part of the family, being remembered and celebrated and its an important part of the grieving process. It is a hard time of year to lose a family member as it will always be part of future Christmasses to mark their passing. I am thinking now, especially of anyone out there who is in the same boat, or who has an anniversary this time of year.
May the road rise up to meet you,
may the wind be at your back,
may the sunshine be warm on your face
and the rain fall soft on your land.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.
Traditional Irish blessing