Tuesday, December 23, 2008

An Irish Wake

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


Totalfeckineejit said...

We should be grateful for the time we have I suppose and isn't it amazing how the worst of times can bring out the best in people.It's easy (for me) to get cynical but there's a lot of good people out there and an abundance of kindness.

Unknown said...

There is indeed, TFE. Almost restores your faith in humanity :S

Group 8 said...

Sorry to hear that. We lost my sister on the 23rd Dec, 7 years ago, and it makes this season bitter sweet.

Wishing you, F and all the family a good one, B.
N x

Jon M said...

Christmas is one of those marker times when we remember the past. Lovely post, Merry Christmas to you and yours, all the best! :-)

apprentice said...

Yes a lovely post B. I'd echo what you say, lots of folk living with loss find this a hard time of year. My husband's colleague died 3months ago, he visited his wife last week, and folks have all moved on, but she's hit a major depression just when there's no-one around.

So look on folks like this, as often they won't ask for help.

Liz said...

Barbara, sorry about your friend's dad - it is such a sad time to lose someone...and yes the Irish Wake is something else - I think the neighbourliness does help to a certain extent with the grieving process even if it is a wee bit overdone at times (sitting up all night)

Happy Christmas...hope Santa has been good to yous all! ; )

Kay Cooke said...

That sense of community needs to be tenaciously gripped, wherever it is found. Sorry to hear of sadness for you at this time of the year. Have a Blessed Christmas with your family.

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of the very may wakes I attended as a child in Dublin. Almost as soon as the death was announced, a group of local women sprung into action...my mother included. Tasks from making tea to laying out the body accomplished with no fuss and great respect and camaraderie. My grany was waked in our house and withing an hour of her death our house was filled with women going about their tasks in a quiet and unfussy way. A wonderful thing to behold. This way of being, an almost silent and unwritten way of behaving at times of need, is the thing I miss the most. Living in London, people are so..self contained, I suppose you could call it, and, in my opinion, fear death, whereas we Irish take it as part of the cycle and embrace it when it calls...a good death is something I remember praying for as a kid, and there is a lot to be said for going calmly into the light. A generalsiation I know and I don't intend to insult any english people...as I think it is the effect of living in a city, anywhere, not a national trait as such....hmmm.

Unknown said...

Well said, What Happened: I think it shows our stoic side very well.

Sorry N to hear that, always a tough time for your family. Hope you all had a good Christmas.

You're right Jon. Janus, who comes next, looks both ways: forwards and back.

So right A, when there's no-one around is when the hard times come.

And Liz and Kay and all the writers here: may all your writings be right 'uns.

Anonymous said...

I'd have been happy with that blessing at my mother's funeral.

Unknown said...

Thanks Dick, I'll be quite happy with it at mine ;)

sexy said...