05 September 2019, The Tablet

The great thing about a death in Ireland is that people know what to do, how to behave


The great thing about a death in Ireland is that people know what to do, how to behave
 

My mother died last night, a little before midnight. I am sitting beside her body. Last night I slept in the chair next to her. She died, to my annoyance, just as I was making tea in the kitchen, after she had been turned in her bed – she couldn’t move by herself except to clench fiercely any hand that prised her fingers open to hold hers.

Her breath had changed before she died and become more raspy and laboured, but she was still capable of response … an effort at smiling, an agitation when she heard a familiar song or verse. She had heard quite a lot of those.

Her party piece as a child was to recite “The Lady of Shalott” from start to finish; my son and my cousin accordingly read it to her, several times. The priest had been to anoint her. So when it came to the end, I did not say prayers with her; we played her Noel Coward’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”.

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