Tonight I went to my Aunt Mickey’s wake. Before my Mom died 13 years ago, I thought wakes and funerals were kind of weird and best avoided when possible. Then when it was my own Mama, I understood the purpose and since then I’ve made a point to attend those I can – both to say my own goodbyes where applicable (i.e., if I knew the deceased) and/or to be respectful and supportive of the bereaved.
In this case, both purposes applied.
In a funny way this post relates to my previous one “We’re tribal creatures” . We band together in times of troubles almost reflexively – we ARE tribal creatures. I was also struck tonight as my cousin Donny’s partner was talking about sitting shiva as a Jewish death-related ritual of how tribal our ways of handling the end of life are. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I had just read “The Celts: A Very Short History” and that book talked about being able to discern archaeologically who lived in a given region by observing the burial rituals – each clan/culture has their own.
My aunt’s wake was very similar to my mother’s (except there was more Irish music, which I personally think is the more correct thing to do!). Some prayers, a group rosary, some bonding/condolence time, lots of flowers.
But the purpose of wakes and funerals isn’t to uphold a culture or family tradition – though those things are accomplished. I think it’s more to provide an expression to grief and a container for the love and support that the bereaved need and the friends and family want to give.
In a culture that pretends like death doesn’t exist that’s all the more needed.
Go well, Aunt Mickey. Your suffering here has ended. And if there’s any type of afterlife (as I believe there is) I’m thinking there is a GRAND Glasgow family reunion going on as the last of the Glasgow clan left the Earth and joined the Celestial Shenanigans.