St. Patrick’s Day is one which is celebrated with much gusto by those with Irish heritage, and those with Irish heritage for a day. A time for green, leprechauns, and shamrocks - and maybe a pint or two. But on this St. Patrick’s Day, we encourage you to dig a little deeper. What can this day teach us about death?
March 17th is celebrated at the commonly believed date of St. Patrick’s death, and is his feast day for those of the Catholic faith. His work in converting the Irish to Christianity can be linked to the strong faith of the Irish over the following centuries, and the co-mingling of pagan traditions with Christian rituals, which brings us to the Irish wake. As portrayed in movies and television, the image of an Irish wake is often one of celebration, and of course, alcohol. In reality, both of these elements are likely present, but there is also a sincere sadness and wailing over the deceased. Traditionally presented as keeping the deceased at home, with no embalming, and a group of men carrying the casket from the house to the local cemetery, these wakes seem fairly simple and straightforward. Modern Ireland may not practice the exact same funeral rites today, but there are still certainly similarities to be found.
So consider, on this St. Patrick’s Day, the beauty of being surrounded by community as you mourn the death of your loved one. The support and strength that is lent to you in your hours of grief. Modern American funeral customs can sometimes encourage us to rush through the death as quickly as possible - to get the services over with so things can go back to “normal”. Think about instead, the comfort and peace that could arrive during a day long vigil, spent perhaps in the funeral home, but with your loved ones. Time to say all the things to the one that has gone before you that you did not get a chance to say in life. Time to share stories, and yes laughter, and likely tears with those who knew and loved them too. And, if appropriate, consider raising a glass to those who have departed this life already -remembering them fondly and acknowledging your loss. And when your time comes, “may you be peaceful and happy and in the presence of those who really care for you”.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!