Google+ Badge

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Faithful Departed. Waking the Dead,

"Isn't it so strange to see some  folks in the day light?" I observe to my husband, both of us standing at  the back of a circle of  mourners, who await the emergence of the coffin from the deceased publican's house. We have come,  being fond of the deceased man and his mourning wife,  to this inward facing circle of local people variously  related,  neighbouring and pub clientele,  who wait patiently  in the crisp cold day for the publican to come out of his house one last time.  Time slows down as we wait, pick out people we know from the pub,  until at last the coffin emerges high on the shoulders of the men.   Three women walk pale and steady behind it  looking neither to right or left, and the crowd fall in after  on the short walk to the church.  Every  soul here knows exactly  its  place  behind the soul  departed.

"Are you going to look at the body"  the Boss asked the evening before when we told her we were going to the wake. As we  laboured to explain  I thought of  how this ceremony would have vanished by the time she grew up and must bury her dead.  I remind her of  how  she had been brought when younger to my brothers wake where she  and the other two had indeed clamoured up on the coffin to look at the body of my dear  brother, who,  reduced to his  essence,  was  childlike and safe .  "It's to say goodbye"  I offered. "To offer sympathy to the living family" my husband added.   "To.. see that the person is dead.....".(to look at the body). Its all that, yes. .

"Do you think that's  who he really was all along" I whisper as I clutch my husband's arm against the strangeness of being in the intimacy of someone's house, the bedroom, containing only this coffin, this man, whose face looks stern  and fine, the care and the  blurring of illness, age  and trouble  melted down, fallen away  from his face . At my father's wake his coffin, lying  high on the  bed, was  circled  by our best sitting room  chairs on which sat people, some solitary, silent, some in little groups, talking,  softly laughing , drifting in and out over two days and nights, until at last they took him out to be put in the ground. The bringing  in to the living breathing house of the lost one  breaks the heart quite as much  as his last  going out.  The graveyard in front of him, a mountain of used tea cups, empty glasses, residue of cake,  sandwiches behind him in the gutted house.

a href="">submit site</a> t" You are not telling us he is dead..... I said"  His wife stands, surrounded and isolated  both   by the  mourners, and tells  her tale for  the umpteenth time. . "I mean, you know, they said he was better, could go home soon. So we left. And  they phoned  And they  said we should come up so we did.  And they called us into a room, and we knew.  It was serious.  But then  they said..they said... they did all they could, And. And... We hugged the widow long and hard, and took ourselves off to the end of the bar, opened to cater for this crowd,  clutching our proffered drinks,  loosing ourselves in the soft voiced  crowd.

"You know I'm being cremated myself" I tell my reluctant husband,  on the way home.  He tells me to shut up, and when I  assure him that he can go first, he tells me firmly that he would not do that to me. As we gently argue this point  I bat away a memory of my mother, alone,  pale and quiet in her house, absently sipping a solitary cup of tea,  where I found her that evening after my father's  funeral.  Crockery, glasses all washed and put away, floors swept, priest paid, her husband waked and most  thoroughly  buried, three miles down the road in the  silent  graveyard.