“I know a young family that experienced the tragic death of their little daughter at the age of 18 months. The convention of our time is to deny death, to pretend it isn’t happening, to sanitise it, to make sure it only happens in hospitals and to hide it in funeral homes.
The convention of our time is to deny death
But the little girl’s parents defied these conventions and insisted on bringing their child home to their house for a wake. In making that choice, they were observing an old Irish tradition. In traditional neighbourhoods, the family, friends and neighbours of a person who was dying spent time with them, maybe speaking to them, maybe in silence, maybe praying together, and after they died, this process continued, people praying in silence or talking to each other, eating and drinking and celebrating the life of the person who had just left them. That tradition of the wake is a recognition of the continuation of life into and beyond death.
The child’s parents were glad of those precious hours with their child, that ‘waking’ time, with the house full of friends and neighbours and family. When their baby was taken to the church, and from there to her burial place, the family continued to talk to her and kept doing so for a long time afterwards. They would light a candle sometimes, to represent her and as a way of keeping in touch with her, and in that way, the child the family has lost continues to have a presence in their home. Their beloved child has never left them and they never left her.”
– St Stan Kennedy in Now is the Time , quoted in Saint Martin Magazine, issue July 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.stmartin.ie (external link)