What Remains

We are travelling to Mayo tomorrow for a funeral, which prompted me to seek out this poem from the archive. Irish funerals, especially those in rural districts, are highly ritualised. As the final rite they are very moving.

Sojourning Smith

In Ireland, death is highly ritualised. Wherever a person dies, almost invariably ‘the remains’ are brought home. There is the wake with neighbours, friends, and extended family visiting the deceased, who is usually laid out in the best room, all coming to say goodbye, praying the rosary, drinking tea, eating sandwiches. Then the house may go private to family only before ‘the removal.’ The remains are removed from home to the church the night before the funeral and a service is held to welcome the coffin.  There are forms of words and people who may  not have visited the funeral house line up to sympathise with the family, shake hands, say “I am sorry for your loss.” Then the funeral, the commital for burial or cremation. Over three days, the bereaved waver on that liminal place of letting go. Each sympathiser dins the reality home. You have lost a loved…

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2 thoughts on “What Remains

  1. Bee, This is exquisitely written and so very poignant. I have saved it, you know. It goes in my Bee Smith poems folder. I think it would be a very lovely thing to read at a certain time and place. I have been very bereft lately by people who die and insist on not having any kind of memorial or service. It is so hard on those left behind, and yet it is stubbornly honored. I don’t think it’s right.

    Cari Ferraro

    http://cariferraro.com http://www.proseandletters.com


    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s interesting. Years ago I had a heart to heart with my mother-in-law who stoutly affirmed she was agnostic or atheist. At that time in Northern Ireland a non-denominational funeral really wasn’t a viable option, so I told her, gently, but very firmly, that she needed to think about what kind of service she would want so that those left behind wouldn’t have to decide on the hoof, when emotions would be a tad raw. She did make arrangements with the church her family had been affiliated with in her youth, though she had not darkend their doors since age 16. We need final rites…it’s how we make it real. Even if one cannot be present you can pause and take time out during those final rites to let the finality sink in. they are gone. They are gone.

      And I am also reviewing my own final rites, which is evolving, in that I am not affiliated with any church or organisation, but there will be some who need that final rite to acknowledge that I am gone, gone, gone.


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