Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No hurry

There are times when I just love Ireland!

Monday evening was one of those times. The father of a dear friend had died, and was being "waked" in their home. I'm not sure if you know what "Waked" is, or whether it's practised in other countries, so a brief explanation.. the body is laid out, in a coffin, in the house overnight and family, friends, neighbours, come to visit and pay their last respects. Prayers are also said- many Rosaries would be recited throughout the wake.

It is a tradition that I love, much more than the modern practice of a funeral home. To me, it's more personal, and somehow signifies the person's last connection with their home, and gives everyone the chance to say goodbye in a cosy, not clinical setting. And family, friends and neighbours bring food, and take turns making large pots of tea for those who have come for that last visit. Stories involving the dead person will be recounted throughout the night, sometimes stuff the family would never hear otherwise.

Now I do realise that sometimes it's not practical. And also wakes have gotten a bad reputation over the years as drinking sometimes was a big part of the whole affair.

Back to the story. Myself and a friend, T, travelled down the country to this wake on Monday afternoon. We had the address of the local church and Hubbie loaded up this gadget

so we wouldn't get lost. The intention was that we'd stop and ask somebody for directions to the house when we reached the church. I didn't want to ring the bereaved friend for directions.

So, Garmin directed us down a narrow, winding country road, and both T and I decided this couldn't be right, so we U-turned and went back to the main road. On to a petrol station a little bit down, and we stopped there to ask for directions. Two old guys were leaning on the counter having a chat:

Us:" Do any of you know Patrick Smith who died a few days ago?"

Old guys:" Ah poor auld Pa Smith, shurr we knew him well, are ye goin to the wake?"

Us: "Well yes, but we're a bit lost"

Old guys: "Now what part of the country would ye be from?"

Us: "Dublin. Could you give us directions to the house?"

Old guys: "Would ye be friends of his daughter? He had 4 daughters but only the wan son".

Us:" We are, we're friends of E, she teaches with us. Could you give us directions to the house?".

Old guys: "Above in Dublin, is it? Ah yes, I remember E when she was a little wan. Lovely family, the Smiths, they all were lovely children."

Us:" Could you give us directions to the house please?"

Old guys, bringing us to the door of the petrol station and pointing down the road:"Go down there, take a right, drive down a little bit. Now you'll come to a cross roads, but go straight through, then you come to a V and take the left then......."

Us: "Sorry, could you say all that again?"

Old guys: "Do you know what, just follow our car, we'll drive down to show you where it is".

Garage guy:"But I thought you were waiting to meet your brother from the bus?"

Old guys: "Just tell him to hang on, we'll be back in a little while, we're gone to show these ladies the way to Pa Smith's wake".

So, true to their word, they drove, making sure we were following and took all the correct turns, and pulled up outside Pa Smith's house, bid us goodbye and went back to the petrol station to collect the brother! No big deal, just what you would do for a neighbour, dead or alive.


  1. That is such a sweet story!! What nice old men to show you the way:)

    I come from a very large Italian family.....and years ago we had the wakes in the house of the deceased person. You are is a much different and more personal in the home.

    Sorry to hear about your friend's father!

  2. Thanks for the grand story...just another example of why I loved Ireland so much. People are so kind and friendly.

  3. i agree with you. my grandfather was waked in his home with the front curtains drawn. when my father emigrated to canada in the 1950s, he thought funeral homes were very strange. i love the directions. once when my ex and i were in ireland, we stopped for some and were told, "go as far as you can and then do it twice more, then turn left and you're there." HA! (p.s. i'm sorry for the loss of your friend)

  4. That's a lovely story. These wakes are respectful and more personal than going to a chapel of rest. But I don't know about the children seeing the departed. It's something I've always pondered.

    CJ xx

  5. I wish we held wakes. I think it might be very healing in the loss.

    Great story!

  6. Jews don't hold wakes or generally have open coffins at all (and I have to admit that the whole concept of an open coffin - I've never actually seen one - makes me more than a little uncomfortable) but the wak part sounds a lot like the shiva mourning period we observe for 7 days after the funeral. Especially the bringing food and sharing stories part, they're an integral part of the grieving process and very healing in their way.

  7. What great neighbours. Fabulous story or human kindness.

  8. I have always loved the thought of a wake, well aside from the drinking. In my family we all go to the mortuary but later we all relax at home with good food and talk and laugh and cry. It is our way of honoring those that have passed on. It reminds me a bit of a wake. I actually first learned about wakes from the movie "Waking Ned Devine" I loved this movie when I was young.
    I love how wonderful the older gentlemen were, who needs technology when you have good old human kindness!
    Thanks for the story I really enjoyed it. I am sorry that you lost someone that you know. Death is hard.

  9. Isn't that just like the Irish.... I love 'em.
    I enjoyed reading this post, Mimi ... I didn't know that wake's had developed a poor reputation.

  10. Wonderful story! Wonderful neighbors! Here in the US we wake in a funeral home. Years ago they did wake at home but no more. Sorry for the loss of your friend, Mimi! :)

  11. A wonderful story!
    We still have some of that neighborly goodness here in rural West Virginia where people look out for each other. If it were only the norm.

  12. I've heard of Irish wakes...... there seems to be a lot of sense in having them.
    Really good story.

    Nuts in May