Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Nothing Better Than an Irish Funeral

Too bad someone has to die. The Irish do death right. Not a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, at least not in my family, but a lot of drinking and carrying on. My cousin's heart blew up at 48, which is par for the course on that side of the family, usually not so young but for generations now they've just been dropping in their tracks. Too bad, he could really write and was a large living, talented guy and of course, his poor wife was devastated. But, what are you gonna do? Have another drink, I guess.
I got to visit with my Aunt Helen, who is also my Godmother which meant that she was tasked with a nigh on impossible mission. Being the clever godson that I am, I asked her where my three wishes were. She told me I'd get mine after she got hers. I imagine her first wish would be that I shut the fuck up and stop making stupid jokes. That's the impression I got anyway. My Aunt Helen is the last practioner of her generation of the brutally sarcastic art of being an Irish mother. Since my mom died, anyway. My mom was just 5' tall but you wouldn't want to ever cross her. She could cut a grown man down to her size in a hurry with just a couple of words. She was a teacher and I was in her Latin class one year. I always wondered why nobody gave me a lot of shit about that. Turns out it wasn't me they were scared of. Not by a long shot. Don't ever die before your Irish mom, because whatever the circumstance, whether you heart blows up or you get hit by a bus or get bit by a rabid squirrel, it's your fault. You were told to lose some weight or look both ways or stay out of trees.

The mass was at St. Patricks in Gibbsville and the priest nailed the eulogy. I'm used to generic blah-blahs at funeral masses but this was really moving. I guess it helps if you grow up with the deceased. These rituals really do help to bring a sense of belonging. I kept getting distracted by the altar piece which pictured a crudely rendered John the Baptist in a Fred Flintstone suit baptising Jesus while the Holy Spirit/bird flew overhead. The whole thing cantilevered out of the wall and really grabbed your attention. To ease the tension I turned to my brother and asked him why the cave man was drowning Jesus. He didn't laugh. He's pretty devout. Then I accidentally (I swear) sat on my Dad's hat during all the ups and downs. As I handed him the crumpled remains of his fedora he gave me a look that melted 50 years of my life away. Then I was so nervous it was all I could do not to bust out laughing every time I thought about that stupid hat. I barely got through the mass. God, I'm shallow.

Back to Aunt Helen and this Irish mother thing. My mother in law is this way, too. There is no situation, no matter how bad, that they couldn't conceive of some way that it could be worse. So for years my Aunt and my cousin (not the dead one) have been involved in the Charismatic movement within the Catholic church. Kind of like Pentecostalism without the bother of a lot of Bible study. My feeling is that Sister Mary Joseph wouldn't approve. And neither would the nun (and she was the nice one!) who tore up my Mad magazine outside catechism class. A big part of this movement (and I use the term loosely, heh, heh) is looking for signs and visitations of the dead being among us. At least from the snippets of conversation I heard, anyway. And the siren at the firehouse where my cousin voluteered went off, for no reason at all. Right around the time of death. Spooky shit like this is why I don't go visit the ancestral homeland - Scranton.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Scranton
    I have heard the phrase "The Irish know how to hold a funeral" for the first time. So being intrigued I googled it, and found your site. My husband and I had a good laugh at your late cousin's expense. Sorry about that - you seem so messed up it's funny. Why don't you lay your hands on a bible and read 1 John just before the really scary book of Revelation ... last one in the bible. Don't get caught though. It was a deadly sin until a few years back.
    Kind regards