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The worry of the wake - Irish mothers and funerals

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A comical Irish wake
I heard some amazing stories at a recent family gathering about Irish mothers and their wakes. Allow me to paint the picture as it was painted to me by an able storyteller whose name is being protected out of fear that his dead mother will come back to haunt him.

The air was heavy with sugary pollen that clung to the heavy red velvet drapes. The body would be couched inside the pillowy lining of the lacquered coffin, open of course. Rows of cheap wooden chairs were set up in front of the coffin.

The Irish widow patted the hand of the funeral director, barely mustering the strength to mouth the words “thank you” in her deep grief.

Someone had dropped a pill in her sweaty palm a while back “to calm the auld nerves,” and things were moving in slow motion for the old gal.

She nodded approvingly at her son as he walked toward her in a pressed black suit with matching tie.
They were alone, and she said a private prayer of thanks that the shrew of a daughter-in-law would be too busy with little kids at home to show her ungrateful face.

He dutifully hooked his arm at his side, and his mother slithered her gloved hand inside of it as they made their way toward the coffin. He was guiding her over to the kneeler by his father but felt a pull toward the flowers.

She removed her reading glasses from her small purse, balanced them on her nose, squinted, and fingered the cards tucked inside the bouquets.

“Ah, jaysis, would you look at this fe**in’ nonsense,” she said with a heavy sigh. “All this money for something that will be dead in two days, the Lord save us and guard us. Such a waste.”

She shook her head.

“Well, if ye were gonna spend this amount anyways, ye’d think yer wan would have gotten a better bouquet! Sure, didn’t yer father get him his first job when he came over from Connemara at the American Can Company? And this is the fe**in’ thanks he gets?”

“Ma, please,” the son pleaded in hushed whispers. “It’s the thought that counts.”

“Exactly!” came the hissed reply as she fingered the hem of the altar vestments that hung on a wire dummy in the middle of the flowers.

“Now this is how ye do it. Yeh paying attention? Yeh can never go wrong with vestments. Are yeh paying attention? Spend the extra money on vestments and avoid this flower nonsense.”

She snatched another card from the bouquet and grimaced.

“Some people have gumption, I tell yeh,” she said through clenched teeth. “His sister sends the biggest bouquet in the place to draw attention to herself. Flowers instead of making the trip over.

“And who would want to see that old crow anyway, squawking about the family business to anyone that’d listen to her like a wet magpie on a telephone wire.”

She bent her head and fumbled in her purse momentarily before pressing a wrinkled piece of paper into her son’s hand.

“Listen, I need you to do something.”

“Anything, Ma.”

“Ye’ll need to keep the seating arrangements straight. Mary’s family is in the row behind me at the wake and the cemetery. Bridie’s clan is behind that. I could care less who sits behind that, but if we
don’t get those two rows straight, I’ll never hear the end of it.”

“Ma, that’s ridiculous!”

“Yerra, it is not,” she said defiantly. “Please just do this to keep the peace around here -- yer father would have wanted this way and sure I don’t want to add to his worries in that coffin.”

You CANNOT make this stuff up!

Only a few more weeks of shopping left until St. Patrick’s Day! Give the gift of reading and log onto www.thisisyourbrainonshamrocks.com to get info on Mike’s book of essays like this one!

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