Why burial is so important for Irish

Posted by Kelly Fincham at 6/3/2009 11:23 AM EDT
I spoke to a woman earlier today who is raising her children alone since the death of her husband in the World Trade Center attack in 2001.
She says she has been glued to the television since the Air France plane disappeared hoping and praying that searchers would find something for the families.
It sounds strange, to be praying for a body, but the burial is so much of the Irish tradition of death. The time-honored tradition of lining up for the viewing, the overnight wake, the walk to the church, the mass and the slow solemn procession to the graveyard. All building up to that final moment when the coffin is lowered into the ground.
We need the trappings of ritual to help make sense of the senseless. The son who took a lift to the wedding, the daughter who drove up to the match, the doctors who boarded an airplane, the fireman who clocked in for work.
In 2001, Irish firefighter Sean Cummins attended the funeral mass of his close friend and colleage Dave Fontana. Dave's wife Marian had hired an empty coffin from the local undertaker in an attempt to try and show their son Aidan that Daddy would never come home.
"It just doesn't feel right," Sean said later.
Eight years later, in vastly different circumstances, it still won't feel right for the Irish families.
It's almost as if we need the physical proof of our loss before we can grieve.