With two sisters who, like me, also work with the public, one works for the catholic church and the other has a pub in London, sometimes our chats turn to ‘the public’ and their antics. We talk regularly and we do compare stories.
Between the pair of them the funniest stories never include drunks, oh no, the funniest stories are usually about my sister in London and her inability to actually hear and filter what she says. She once declared to a Dublin taxi driver, after we’d had a shopping trip together ‘ I have a big box, could you manage a big box’ the taxi driver, a serious older gentleman ‘I’m game if you are love’ She was equally amused and embarrassed, more amused if the truth be told.
This mornings offering from my sister and the church, was without doubt a bit more unusual than the wardrobe malfunctions at weddings or priests sliding into graves in bad weather. All true by the way.
We’ve all had relatives who’ve passed away leaving us obliged to give them a respectful funeral, depending on the individual of course. But the truth is, it’s the last thing we will have to do for our loved ones and we do the best we can for them.
When our mother passed away the four of us had no idea how to handle this situation at all so we depended on the undertaker to guide us on this once only journey. He advised us to dress her in something she liked and wore often, so she’d seem more ‘like herself”
My sisters and brother arrived at the undertakers with armfuls of clothes that she wore regularly, along with a cardigan and new tights and shoes. We asked them to choose what they though was appropriate. To our horror they’d dressed her in every piece of clothing we’d provided. Our dead mother looked like she’d gained rather a lot of weight and was dressed for every season.
As with catholic tradition we (her children) were left to say our good byes and pray with her before her coffin was closed and we churched her for the night. This of course did not go in accordance with catholic tradition.
We stood together, somewhat tearful looking down on our mother for the very last time as a family unit blessing ourselves about to pray when ‘Hold on did we bring her knickers’ my younger sister declared.
‘Knickers’ sez I
‘Oh no we forgot the knickers’ sez other sister
‘I don’t think she’ll be concerned about a pair of knickers’ sez I tryin g to get on with the prayer saying.
‘She’ll be cold’ sez other sister
‘Hardly she’s got on more clothes than Shackleton did in the North Pole’ my brother joined in.
‘But no knickers’ sez youngest sister
‘We can’t bury her knickerless’ sez other sister
‘There’s nothing we can do now, so lets just pray’ sez I bowing my head hoping they’d follow and let the knickerless situation go.
‘Huh pray for God to arrive with a pair of M&S knickers’ sez youngest sister
The undertaker appeared at the door asking if were ready to bring our mother to the church, instead of saying ‘No’ we looked at each other kissed our mother on the forehead, catholic tradition, and backed away leaving the undertaker to close the coffin. Our last moments with our mother were spent discussing her knickers. Not the norm in any tradition.
I actually thought this was sort of unique situation until this weekend when my sister, the other sister, who works for the church told me a story about the church organist whose mother passed away.
As we tried to do the best for our mother, so did the organist and her sister. Their mother had worn glasses all her life and the undertaker had informed them that some people actually do bury relatives with their glasses on. It makes them look more like themselves.
The organist and her sister spend several minutes in the undertakers putting on and taking off their mother glasses.
‘With glasses’ they asked and stood back to see how well their mother looked
‘Without glasses’ ‘With glasses’ ‘Without glasses’
This went on for several minutes and it was decided that they would leave her with her glasses on as she looked like ‘Herself’
Family and friends came and sympathised with the sisters and said how well their mother looked. It’s an Irish thing, trust me, people say it all the time.
They said their last good byes and walked the coffin the short distance to the church. Where the bespectacled woman would rest over night before her funeral mass and burial the following morning.
The organist having seen to relatives and friends arrived home to check ‘mass readings and songs’ for her mothers funeral. Unable to focus on any of the prayers and cleaning her own glasses a couple of times she cam to the sudden and unfortunate realisation that in fact, she had her mothers glasses in her hand.
Her glasses, were, on her mothers face in a sealed coffin in a locked church.
What do you do in situations like this, well I suspect that this was an unsual situation, well you call my sister and the Church clerk.
Needless to say the situation was resolved.
The absolute Joy of sisterly chats..