Tag Archives: wake

John Kelley’s Wake

Back in the main room of the pub they were playing “Auld Triangle” on the speakers — The Pogues version, as if there were any other. It was sundown, and in the distance you could just make out a halo around the crown of the Prudential Center. Spires of frosted orange sunlight shone through the bay windows at the far end of the bar, the silhouettes of panes framing all the faces that turned out to say farewell. I wasn’t in much of a mood for talking — Irish funerals also make for massive social events — but looking out at the crowd that had gathered at the bar, it was nice to see the diversity of lives that John had touched over his however-many years.

Before the sun had set, it had been one of those beautifully grey New England days that bugged my knee, so I’d been using my da’s old shillelagh as a crutch to help me walk. A few folks tried to offer me their stools to get me off my feet but I ignored them, not wanting to deal with all the small-talk conversation that would surely come along with it. The more funerals you find yourself at, the less inclined you are to go through that same dance every time:

“What’s good, brotha?”

“Ah, ya know, hangin’ in there. How ya been?”

“Good, good, yeah. Besides, you know.”

“Yeah.”

“Fuckin’ shame, y’know?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I think he woulda liked this though. It’s a nice way to honor him.”

And so on ’til you puke. “No, he wouldn’t fuckin’ like it,” I always wanted to say, “‘Cause he’d still be fuckin’ dead, and having the corpse of the recently deceased prance around the funeral would really do a number on his loved ones, don’t you think?”

But instead the conversation shifts to some nostalgia, as if you and who you’re talking to have any kind of bond worth catching up on, besides being spat out on the Earth by your mams in or around the same zip code. Of course, it’d be rude to say, “I don’t care where you’re living now, I haven’t seen old-so-and-so, and I don’t care that she’s fat but since you asked I think it’s pretty fuckin’ rude of you to say so won’t you kindly piss off so I can grab another drink and drown the pain.”

It would take me at least another dozen pints until I got that honest.

iWake

The first thing I did when I walked in the room was make a bee-line towards her parents. I wasn’t prepared to face the brutal truth of the situation, so I embraced them instead. We kissed each others’ salty wet cheeks, and gave our best apologies, uncertain of what else to say.

As I was preparing myself to continue down the line and shake her older brother’s hand, I noticed a flash of light in the corner room. I turned around, and noticed Aaron kneeling over the casket with his iPhone out. I excused myself from the receiving line, and darted over to him, lifting him up by the shoulder pads in his suit jacket.

“What the hell are you doing?” I hissed through gritted teeth.

“What?” he replied, dusting off his jacket. “I was taking a TwitPic of the corpse. You know, just in case like, people couldn’t be here, and they wanted to see, maybe say some prayers at home. You gotta embrace the technology, man. Even in a funeral home. It’s no longer a local culture, you know?”

I refused to justify this with a response, and instead returned to my place in line, offering my condolences to her brother, and sharing lighthearted, humorous memories from the time we lived together. We laughed, however gingerly, as we reluctantly celebrated a life that had left us too soon.

Aaron, meanwhile, stayed focused on his phone. I shifted my position in an attempt to welcome him into the circle and encourage him to join in the conversation, but everyone grieves in different ways. “Whoa — did you know this place has a FourSquare deal?” he said, without turning his attention from the screen. “15% off your bill every 3rd check-in!” I excused myself from the rest of the group, and dragged Aaron away with him. He hardly even noticed, instead allowing himself to be moved with minimal force, until finally, he dug his feet into the ground. “Oh…” he said, letting the word hang and reverberate from his mouth. “She’s the FourSquare Mayor of her own wake. I guess that makes sense, I just…wow. I never thought about that. Do you think it would be rude to steal the mayorship? I mean, if I check in tomorrow at the funeral, I’ll have it, but I don’t want to like, hog the spotlight or —”

Without warning, I snatched the cellphone from his hands, shut it off, and put it in my pocket. “Get it together, and pay your respects,” I told him, and made my way towards the bathroom. The Men’s Room door opened up into the larger hall, so I carefully shut the door behind me, trying my hardest not to disturb the other mourners or even alert them to my presence. For some reason, urinating at a wake always seemed rude to me.

Unfortunately, it seemed that I had forgotten to lock the door, and as every guy knows, it’s nearly impossible to stop once you start letting it go. No sooner had I started then another guest opened the door without a knock — leaving me exposed with penis in hand to the rest of the wake. Under normal circumstances, I think she would have appreciated the embarrassment, or at least gotten a kick out of it, but it was difficult to explain that to her grieving parents.