Finnegan’s wake without the whiskey

I’d make a terrible anthropologist, I think. Rather than finding the unique and reportable, my thesis would be “people, right, yeah, pretty much the same.”

As the crow, or maybe a toucan or something tropical flies, I’m sitting just under 10,000 miles from my birthplace. All of the funerals I’ve attended have been in New England. The magic has been brought mostly by courtesy of your Roman Catholic holy and apostolic traditions, with the occasional Protestant mass for flavor.

This time around on another continent I was a newly minted family member, daughter-in-law and wife of the elder son. Just as with every service I’ve ever been, it all started with the family convergence, phone calls, the bustle of professional death handlers, friends, neighbors and relations. And in the ensuing afternoons and evenings, something like a party.


I’m not James Joyce. And, I don’t speak Hokkien, Hainanese, Cantonese, Bahasa Malay or any other tongue piping up among the crowd. So I don’t have any stories to tell.

A bottle of whiskey wasn’t in the coffin. Nor was it stolen and sent around the crowd. No one evilly plotted a cannibal meal. And, no spare whiskey and beer were passed among the crowd.

Still and all, among the chaos, the scene was familiar. Old friends and extended family wandering in and out. Reminiscing about who was where when and what ever happened and how did everyone get so old. It was a wake, just the same as “visiting hours” in the U.S. Like in a not so distance past in my old neighborhood the guest of honor lay quietly among candles and prayers inside the house. And catered food and handshakes stayed up on the porch.

Talk with me. Please.