Paul wondered how people who didn’t gather and celebrate coped with burying a loved one. The great thing about a wake was the opportunity to reminisce and swap memories. A wake was also a great excuse for catching up with friends and family. Reflecting on its origins, he realised a wake provided the children of the Irish diaspora with an excuse to share a feast, and drink too much.
Josie’s wake was true to form. The house was full of people. The backyard was full of people. Paul’s brothers took over the barbecue and manned the eskies. The words flowed freely along with the beer. The gang arrived with more food. Father Mulligan turned up with a bottle of whisky, and they had to call Grace, his housekeeper, when it was time for him to go home.
In the first few hours, every possible memory of Josie’s life was aired by someone, some about real events and some imagined. Rosa told some stories no-one had heard before, but only when her mother was not within earshot. The slideshow of the pictures of Josie’s life was played on the computer in the study, and the photo albums, which Josie had lovingly scrapbooked over the years, were passed around in the lounge. Slowly the conversations turned to other topics as the mood swung from melancholy towards moving on with life.
The cousins congregated in Matthew’s room, listening to music and talking about school and basketball. The men talked work, politics, sport and religion in various parts of the house and standing around the barbecue, long after the cooking was done. The women talked about the men, the children and what they were doing at work.
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