Funerals but no Wedding


The photograph is of my Uncles and
two of my oldest cousins at the
funeral of our Grandad. That little girl is me.
Always wanting to be right at the centre of the action.

One thing that there has been a huge number of in my life is the funerals. Funeral after funeral to the extend that Alli, my younger sister,said after our dog,
Sheme, died as well in 1982, that “everybody is dying!!” There were no weddings that we attended, though there must have been plenty of them with the sheer number of first cousins (29) but we for some reason did not go.

I do remember this funeral – obviously not everything about it but I do recollect that my neck was hurting me a lot afterwards. Being so tiny, I had to really strain my neck in order to see and look-up at all these people at the funeral of my mother’s father. Apparently, I nearly fell into the grave as I was so mini-me and tried to crack me neck at peering into where Grandad was laid into. The graves are rather deep, aren’t they just. It is also very typical of a Finnish funeral never to mention alcohol or any of that sort. Not so in Ireland.

I had only arrived in Ireland and been just for a few days in Dublin when the uncle living in Belfast died and we all hurried to the funeral in the north. The funeral part was over and we were in the hotel for a meal and a chat with the relatives and friends of the uncle. These old ladies, Queen Mum look-a-likes with handbags and outfits to match the QM, were all ordering these fancy drinks of which names I had never ever even heard. My mouth was wide ajar with surprise and wonder of it all so that I could not utter a word, when himself says to me: ” YOU will order orange juice!!” And so I did.

To my absolute amazement the rounds of drinks were many and plentiful. I said to himself that never, never, in the Finnish funerals – though being a nation of heavy drinkers – would no body but nobody ever dare serve alcoholic drinks. It would be considered most inappropriate.

Another humourous funeral incident with a macabre twist was this true story that happened for a long, long time ago to her family in Ireland as told to me by an Irish-Italian woman who I got to know while living in Bray. The old custom of mourning in Ireland is to have a wake for the dead that goes on for a number of days with heavy drinking and plentiful singing and storytelling around the coffin.

Anyway, this is what happened:

The party was in a very merry way after several days of the
wake when suddenly there was a knock at the coffin coming from the inside and they opened the lid and the “deceased” one rises up to a sitting position and says:


He had only been
unconscious for a good few days and not dead. Twas a lucky man and a good thing that the wake was taking place and not an immediate burial.

I have also been in a Jewish and a Muslim funerals.The Muslim one was unusual in that the son and the other close male relatives of the deceased one, jumped into the open grave to finish off the digging of the same and then lowered the wrapped body into it! I should think that somehow helps and speeds up the healing process of the loss and bereavement.

The Jewish funeral in Israel was unusual in the way that instead of laying wreaths and flowers on the grave, stones were laid on it. I remember the devastating sense of grief and loss that was expressed loudly and clearly. That open expression of sorrow is much healthier than the stiff-upper-lip style of mourning in the west. Sitting shiva underlines the society’s acceptance of a public grief and allows it to be, just as strong as one feels within. Hence the healing process will be much smoother and more wholesome. Yes, sure the loss is there, but due to this public mourning, one need not put a strong face on the matter.

Grief is GRIEF in any and every language and culture.

Tis for now. Riihele xx.


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