An Irish Funeral
The Irish Funeral follows a pattern regardless of the age of the deceased. It is almost like a ritual, a ritual with its customs, the funeral home or wake, the removal, mass or service, burial, grub, and sometimes even the craic, more so in the case of an elderly person who has enjoyed what is commonly referred to as a good innings. Rural funerals, especially in the case of the old can often be a good day out, a chance to see and mingle with people you haven’t seen in a while. City funerals are different; mainly in the sense of traffic congestion, which could make it more difficult for people to attend and to be able to take their time. All funerals are unique in their own fashion but there’s nothing quite like an Irish Funeral. Of course the passing of a family member, friend or an acquaintance is a sad time for all involved; the younger the person the sadder the occasion. With older people there is an easier acceptance of their demise.
With the advent of modern technology, word of someone’s passing travels much faster, we hear the news via local radio, Facebook, emails, text messages, newspapers, and of course word of mouth. First thing that happens is the removal of the deceased either from the home place, nursing home or from the hospital. In most cases it’s from the hospital. In older times the dearly departed would be waked at home before their removal to the local church, but in more recent times the removal from the hospital morgue to the funeral home is what usually takes place, this is where the recently deceased can be viewed by friends and neighbours with the immediate family in close proximity. Viewing customarily occurs in the late afternoon; however it can begin earlier if the deceased is a victim of circumstance, famous, or well liked. Sympathisers after viewing the mortal remains of the deceased will then offer their hand in sympathy to the deceased immediate family, usually accompanied with the immortal words “Sorry for your trouble”. After the viewing is complete the funeral director will prepare the casket for the journey to the church or service, and this procedure is what’s known as the removal.
So how do you find yourself at someone’s funeral? Someone may ask you if you intend going to the removal, or mass or service, or both. This will depend on certain factors: how well did you know the deceased or the family? Are you obliged to go? Can you get off work to go to the mass? How far away is the church? Who will there? Will there be food afterwards? You would be amazed how many people will go if there is a feed and a pint after the deceased has finally been laid to rest.
Generally folk turn out for funerals to show their respect for the family in question, and out of respect for friends and work colleagues who are related to the deceased in some way. If you can make both the removal and the mass or service all the better; but if you can only make one, that will do as you will have honoured the family. Of course it goes without question that you will attend a family or extended family members funeral if at all possible. Why? Because it’s expected of you, and not to do so would cause people to notice; there are always people who turn up to see who haven’t turned up. Gossip is an integral part of Irish life and there are no exceptions.
After the funeral is over, family, friends and neighbours will usually retire to a local hotel or hostelry for something to eat and drink; this can range from soup and sandwiches to a sit-down meal or even a buffet. This is the time when people will mingle and chat.
It goes without saying that the deceased is never spoken badly of (Well in most cases) but rather the opposite. People are inclined to say nice things “She was a beautiful corpse, I haven’t seen her look as well in years” A complete contradiction , if you find yourself in conversation with someone who is spouting stuff like that, better to just nod the head in affirmation. I once overheard a group of elderly women discussing the passing of their friend. “Poor ould Bridie…she’s in a much better place. “She was a great knitter” another said. “She’s knitting for the boss himself as we speak” someone else chirped in. I almost wished that poor ould Bride had knitted one for myself. I suppose, in a sense it’s a way of keeping the dearly departed in our hearts and minds, and that in its self is no bad thing, a healthier way at looking at death rather than a morbid fascination with it, and that as they say is all part of an Irish Funeral.
An Irish Funeral