An Irish funeral brings family together
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It’s not often all the family gets together, and when it happens it’s usually while celebrating at weddings or weeping at funerals.
My grandmother’s recent funeral was no exception.
I’d always heard about my Nana Drew’s brothers and sisters, but I’d only ever met one. There were six of them. They immigrated to all parts of the world.
Back then when you left you rarely came home. There was no Internet or phones, so contact was extremely minimal, thus driving a further divide between families.
Diana Drew fell in love with my grandfather, Jackie, across a dance hall at the village green in Athy, County Kildare when they were young. He was a musician, a jazz player. She once told me how she was blown away by his good lucks and Kerry charm.
Unfortunately, for little Nana Drew, her family -- wealthy tailors who had a car when no one else did -- didn’t approve. What kind of life could a musician provide for her, they asked.
She didn’t care. She was in love, and that’s all that counted.
After a few months of dating Diana and Jackie were wed, without her family present, and they continued their life in Kerry where my grandfather continued to play music and supplemented it with garage work.
They were happy. As the years went by and we, her grandchildren, came along, we never heard the sad stories, only the happy ones.
She would tell us at length about the good times she had with her brothers and sisters while growing up. They played many a trick on each other. They swapped clothes, they had picnics, they went to the beach -- Nana Drew once fell into a swamp and they rescued her -- they shared many a happy time together.
When they were old enough they all left the nest. Some went to other parts of Ireland, but most went abroad.
I’d heard about the family in America and witnessed the annual Christmas box bursting at the seams with American clothing, sweets and goodies. I’d spoken once or twice to Nana’s brother and sister in England and I’d met, on occasion, her sister up the country.
But it wasn’t until her funeral that I got to meet Nana’s youngest brother, Noel, small in stature, just like Nana, but with a huge heart.
I was blown away by the physical resemblance. Seeing him arrive in the funeral home put a lump in my throat for two reasons, one because he instantly reminded me of Nana (I did not recognize the corpse in front of me), and two, because I knew that it would have meant so much to Nana to have Noel present.