Joe's Salient Points
Nev has a quote that "the best occasions to observe the human heart are weddings, funerals, and duels." I have been to two out of three in the past couple weeks. So if anybody out there is getting married soon, can I come? I promise I'll be good. Well, sort of good. It turns out that one way you can tell if a funeral goes well (or at least as well as these things ever do) is that there should be no fire, except for cremations, where fire is a necessary thing.
On that criteria, Joe's funeral went well. Lots of people (I would guess between 600 and 1000) turned up at the funeral home for the removal on Thursday. My Dad wasn't there (he's in the hospital), so for a long time it was just Joe's sons and grandson and Eddie and I standing over the coffin to receive people. All the women were sitting. None of the other cousins on Joe's or Lucy's side turned up until later, and Mark didn't know/didn't care/did a Mark on the whole standing over the coffin thing.
So we had lots of people come in, do a preliminary scan of the room: widow (check), widow's mum (check), grieving women (check), various old crones who seem to be attracted to death and only come out for funerals (check), sons (check), and then some strange men standing in the corner. If Dad had been there, I think it would have more obviously been a brother, sons, grandson, Ollie's sons, other nephews thing.
Because nobody introduces themselves or asks who you are at a funeral, if you are in a suit and standing over the coffin then you are worthy of a ballistic handshake and a "Sorry for you trouble," mumbled as low and as quickly as possible. Which is still better than the people who just rush around nodding at people or who come in and seem uncomfortable shaking hands with anyone -- in particular the people in their 20s and 30s, who want to share their condolences with only one or two people and ignore everyone else; older people (who know how it's done) and younger people (who have been told what to do) are happy to shake everyone's hand. I suppose in your 20s or 30s, death is a distant concept, and they don't want to face their own mortality.
On the flip side, Joe was 68, and so a lot of people coming in to share their condolences were older. And most of them seem to have their fashion sense stuck in the early '80s. And I mean early '80s Ireland, so lots of headscarves for the women and brown sports jackets for the men. Not many punk-rock ensembles. There were a few people who were stuck even before trying to hang on to youth with loud shirts and cosmetic surgery. There is such a thing as too much Botox, and it's obvious when you see it, especially in men over 50.
Sealing the coffin is a depressing bit, so I'll skip over that. Myself and Eddie carried the coffin from the car into the church -- the first time I had to do that. About 150 to 200 people turned up at the church. After the brief ceremony and a decade of the rosary, I went back with Ger and Joseph to talk to the priest and to pick up a reading for Friday. The priest was sympathetic and asked for salient points about Joe to build a sermon on. In the end they boiled down to family, sport, and work, which isn't a bad list, if you think about it. Afterwards we adjourned to the Unicorn, where Mark and Denis (a cousin) managed to simultaneously ask after each other while at the same table!
The funeral mass was Friday morning. The priest did a good job of weaving the stuff we told him about Joe into his sermon, even if he did ramble a bit. I did one of the readings (Romans 14:7--9) and again carried the coffin, this time out of the church. I took Holy Communion for political reasons (the first time in years) and was surprised when the earth didn't open up and swallow me. Maybe there is nothing to this religious stuff after all. Various cousins did the other readings and prayers and gifts and stuff, and Ger did a nice eulogy for his Dad, which had everyone crying.
So off to the cemetery. There was an honour guard from Young Munster Rugby Club, and they carried the coffin the last few hundred metres. Mungret Cemetery is the newest one around the city (not to be mixed up with Mungret Graveyard, which is attached to Mungret College and is quite old). It's VERY new, none of the graves are more than one or two years old, and when you consider that some of the other graveyards in use in the city have headstones nearly 200 years old and give off a general aura of age and neglect and overgrowth, then Mungret doesn't seem like a proper cemetery at all. And it's next to a cement factory, so there are lots of big electricity pylons ringing the cemetery. The types of pylons you aren't supposed to get too close to as you could get cancer or an attack of explosive amnesia or whatever. Not that that should bother any of the residents! It looks like the type of place where zombies come from -- all industrial and electric. How does one fight off cement-encrusted zombies? I suppose they can't move very fast.
After the funeral we went back to Young Munster's clubhouse for some beer and lunch.