Tom Mee (87), a Colorado man whose family trace their roots to County Cork, had heard a lot about traditional Irish wakes from his grandparents and had always wished he could be present at his own. On Monday night, Clancy’s pub in Athy, County Kildare, made his dream come true, he attended his own “fake wake”, casket, musicians and all.
Emma O’Brien, one of the pub’s owners, was so struck by what she had witnessed that she called the Ray D’Arcy Show on Today FM, to tell her story. What she initially thought would be “a bit of craic” became an emotional experience.
Last October O’Brien received a request to book a celebration from Mee’s son Richard and the rest of the clan in Colorado. She told Ray, “In the beginning they told me it was a 65th wedding anniversary for their parents and they were coming to Ireland to celebrate.
“But then we were emailing back and forth for a couple of weeks in November and in the end, they said they wanted a wake for their dad.”
Tom Mee, his wife Lillian, their four sons and other family rented a house in the Athy area and planned a ten-day vacation, including taking in the Punchestown Races. All the while O’Brien was planning their “fake wake.”
“The lads” at the bar built a fake casket and Clancy’s team decorated the back room with Halloween decorations and candles to try and create a deathly atmosphere.
“They arrived at 5pm on Monday and we had the wedding anniversary party in one of the rooms,” said O’Brien.
“But down the back it was lights out and candles everywhere, with a casket in the middle of the bar.
“We had a big photo frame with his picture in the middle of him in the Navy. It was a really nice photograph, very appropriate. We had candles all around the frame and we basically pulled out some decorations from Halloween like tombstones and stuff.”
“It was very authentic.”
Just like at a real Irish wake, musicians surrounded the casket playing tunes, but this wake was different as Mee sat in the corner taking it all in. O’Brien said that after a few minutes the party atmosphere changed and emotions began to flow.
O’Brien said, “People started telling stories about him in the Navy,” and crying and laughing.
Speaking to the Irish Daily Star from the Punchestown Races, Mee said, “I enjoyed it. I’ve been wanting that for years and years and years. I wanted it before from stories from my grandparents.
His wife Lillian added, “I enjoyed the wake even though I said I would never have a wake for him because I thought it was kind of strange.”
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”