Participation in funeral rites is one of the most powerful and healing things we can do and witness when we lose someone we love. Individual participation can take the form of placing a note in the casket, sprinkling ashes on the sea or selecting music for the service. Community participation can take the form of a wake or a public procession. However, as this following excerpt from the 'Yorkshire Pudding' blog shows so eloquently, there is nothing quite like engaging in the hard physical work of digging out a place in the earth and carrying a loved one to their place of rest, or the timeless gift of sharing a word or song with family and friends at the grave. My heartfelt thanks to YP, for allowing me to share the beautiful story of his brother Paul’s burial in
. County Clare, Ireland
We buried him in an isolated rural cemetery that is known locally as "The Island" - probably because that little hummock of a hill was once surrounded by swampy ground. As is the tradition, only male family members carried the coffin. Feeling his weight on my right shoulder was a wonderful discomfort.
He had known each of the gravediggers. They had prepared a hole some five feet deep, snug against the limestone boundary wall with a huge pile of Clare soil beside it in what has been one of western
's driest years. Ireland
Ned Crosby, the priest, who also knew Paul personally, said the customary religious words by the grave. And then everybody applauded my dead brother. By the stunted hawthorn bush where an ancient chapel once stood, musicians played familiar tunes on fiddles, concertinas and pipes with Paul's daughter, Katie, accompanying on her wooden flute.
All was quiet and then an old friend called Michael stood on a rock with his chin raised slightly to the sky and with great passion recited in Irish Gaelic a famous poem called "Pearse's Lament". Roughly translated, it begins:-
Grief on the death, it has blackened my heart:
lt has snatched my love and left me desolate,
Without friend or companion under the roof of my house
But this sorrow in the midst of me, and I keening.
As I walked the mountain in the evening
The birds spoke to me sorrowfully,
The sweet snipe spoke and the voiceful curlew
Relating to me that my darling was dead.
At the end Michael wove in some few Spanish words which connected
's freedom struggle with the battles of Spanish republicans before the second world war - "Viva la quinta brigada! No passaran! Adelante!" Ireland
People began to drift away. Some stood amongst the graves exchanging thoughts about Paul. I took a handful of earth from the pile and threw it on top of his coffin. Soon the gravediggers removed the flowers and began their timeless task, quietly filling in the hole where Paul will rest forever - well not really Paul but his human remains - that same wax model I reflected on in "Hands".
It was the best of days and the worst of days. Has there ever been a more beautiful funeral? I doubt it. I was filled with pride for my lost brother who was so loved by the people of Clare - the old and the young, rich and poor, intellectual and moronic, pub landlords and priests. Although he was only sixty two, he lived his life to the full with such goodness in his soul. By far, I am not the only one who will never forget him.
All photos and text used by permission. For more wonderful Yorkshire Pudding, visit the blog at http://beefgravy.blogspot.com/