A first cousin dies, on my father's side, the oldest surviving male from that branch of the family. (I'm next.) So I hie myself south dutifully - but also with curiosity as I see very little of my Kingdom cousins. We arrive in a packed funeral home in Tralee. The corpse is on display - not looking too good. I'd have given him a bit of colour. Corpses leave me relatively unmoved as they are palpably shells. The family are arranged around the perimeter of the room and we (my two brothers are with me) do a circuit of hand-shaking - hard for us, tedious I'm sure for them. I have no idea who many of them are - partners and children of cousins and nephews etc. Then we proceed to a anteroom and wait for the lengthy line of sympathisers to travel the same via dolorosa. It's teeming down outside.
When the whole town has paid its respects (or so it seems), the doors into the viewing room are shut and last farewells are said. The doors open again and eight male family members emerge to shoulder the coffin and slow march down the street to the church a few hundred yards away. They are followed by the hardiest of the mourners. The rest of us divert to our cars and get there relatively dry. At the church we join the sodden funeral party to say a decade of the rosary and listen to a few readings. The main event will be tomorrow.
And then back to the son's house to a laden table (cake, sandwiches, fancy savouries) and an inexhaustible supply of drink. The smokers are undeterred by the cause of death (lung cancer) as they assume a position just outside the kitchen door where the cakes and ale are within easy reach. A good night ensues. All agree we should try to meet more frequently, and not just at funerals. Although funerals may soon start getting more frequent.