Saturday Dec. 3rd
The day of the funeral, and I woke that morning to a cloudy grey sky. Nellie made Michael and me some breakfast but neither of us felt like eating much; we weren’t exactly dreading what was to come but we weren’t looking forward to it either. The funeral was to be at 11.30; Mari arrived just before we set off for the chapel of rest and as it was only just at the far end of the main street we all walked there. It was so strange seeing two identical coffins side by side, and remembering how Michael’s dad had looked just a few months ago when he was still quite well it was very upsetting to see him lying there, just a thin shadow of his former self.
Once everyone was assembled the funeral procession set off for the church; as seems to be the custom there were no funeral cars, just the two hearses with most people walking behind, though there were many more people assembled at the church when we got there. The service, although a bit long-winded, was lovely – there were no hymns but the choir sang three lovely songs, Michael read out a poem, just about managing to get through it without breaking down, and someone else from the church played a beautiful piece of music on a synthesiser. As an immediate family there were only four of us sitting at the front – Nellie, Michael, me and a cousin from Portlaoise – and after the service everyone else came down to shake our hands and offer their condolences, then the two brothers were taken up to the graveyard in the church grounds and buried side by side in the family plot.
When we got back to the house we found that Noreen and a neighbour’s daughter had laid out a buffet on the table in the living room and a big tureen of soup was heating up on the cooker. The hospital bed that Michael’s dad had been using was still in the corner of the living room and it came in handy for people to sit on as there were so many crammed into the house; somehow I got shovelled into a corner but at least I was near the fire. It must have been an hour or so later when people began to drift away and the house finally became quiet; Michael took himself off upstairs as he wanted some time on his own, then after I’d helped Nellie to clear up the living room I got my camera and went out for a walk.
As we’d been walking back down from the grave side I’d got talking to Father Pat who had presided over the funeral, and I’d asked him if it would be okay for me to go back to the church sometime and take some photos inside; he’d said it was, and as I also wanted to spend some time on my own with my thoughts it was a good opportunity to do both. The church was beautiful, old but decorated in modern colours, and there were colourful stained glass windows everywhere – unfortunately the lights were only lit on one side but I still got some reasonable photos. From the church I went back up to the grave and spent several minutes sitting quietly before making my way back to the house.
It was early evening before Michael put in an appearance and as neither of us wanted much to eat after having the buffet earlier on we settled for just coffee and cake. A few of Nellie’s friends called round later on and as these were people I’d never previously met I just introduced myself then made myself scarce. The bedroom wasn’t really warm enough to sit up there reading for any length of time so I went out again, this time to the castle. There was a 3-day Christmas market in the courtyard and the place had been decorated with Christmas trees and a Santa’s Grotto; there was even artificial snow blowing from a machine somewhere, and with colour-changing lights everywhere it all looked quite attractive.
As I wandered round my attention was caught by the sound of music coming from the permanent marquee in one corner so I went to see what was going on; I remembered Nellie mentioning a fashion show in aid of charity so presumably this must be it. The place was packed, though as I didn’t have any money with me I couldn’t pay to get in so I just stood by the open door to watch from outside. I’d not been there long when one of the comperes shouted for someone to close the doors as the models were getting cold, and a tall guy standing just inside said to me “Are you coming in?” then put his arm round my shoulder and drew me inside, closing the door behind me. So I was in whether I wanted to be or not – and that was the start of a really enjoyable hour.
The fashions were modelled in sections of about half a dozen items and in between each section the two comperes, who seemed to be a comedy/singing act, would crack a few jokes and sing a song. At one point they sang one of my favourites, Footloose, and they got people up dancing so I took the opportunity to join in, though I didn’t stray away from the table where I put my camera and jacket. The evening ended with a very hilarious raffle then as soon as the doors were opened again I grabbed my jacket and camera and made my way outside and back to the house. After such a sad and sombre day that hour really brightened my mood, and though I had no wish to disrespect Michael’s dad or Jimmy I went to bed that night feeling more light hearted than I had been of all day.