My Irish Wake: A Glimpse Inside
Sean Doyle, 14, was killed yesterday in a vehicular accident. A milk truck ran over young Sean as he ran into the street, chasing a ball. He is survived by his parents, Jack and Katie Doyle, two brothers, Kevin and Evan, two sisters, Megan and Emily, and numerous aunts and uncles. He will be sorely missed.
It is still dark outside and everyone is sleeping except Mama. She is still keeping vigil in the sitting parlor. It is hard to believe that just yesterday I was playing stick ball with my pals and running through the hydrant. I should have been more careful. I should have let the ball go, but I wanted to win. "I will not tolerate losers in my house", my father's voice booms out. No, wait, that was just an echo. It hurt me to hear Mama cry so hard, I thought she would never stop. For a while now, she's just been staring off into space. I think I like that even less.
I must have dozed off, I can hear people up and about. My brothers are awful quiet this morning, they must be up to something. I can't really remember much about what happened yesterday, but I know it wasn't good. I must be hurt pretty bad, I can hardly move. Mama must be in the kitchen fixing breakfast for everyone. Oh, good, there's my dad, "hey, Dad!" Is Dad crying? No way! I have never seen my dad cry. "What's wrong, Dad? Why won't you talk to me?" The doorbell is ringing, I wonder who is here so early on a Sunday morning. I wonder if Mama is going to come in and bring me breakfast? I really don't feel hungry this morning, though, usually I'm starving. Why does the doorbell keep ringing?
We have visitors and it looks like we are getting ready for a party. Why would we be having a party when I can't join in? I can see the neighborhood ladies. They look like they are coming over to talk to me. Finally! Wait, what are you doing? They're closing the parlor doors. Hey, I'm to old to be washed, and if I am hurt that bad, I would rather my mother wash me. Hey, stop! Oh, boy, there are three of them and I can't move around to cover myself.
Oh, good, they're done. What is this robe that they are dressing me in? My robe is blue and this one is brown and it looks funny. What kind of party are we having? Maybe it's a costume party, but I would have liked to have picked out my own costume.
Oh my, what is that God awful noise and where is it coming from? This has to be a joke, my whole family and those nosy ladies who washed me are are singing! I think they are singing, but it doesn't sound like any singing I have ever heard. Oh, it is horrible, they sound like they are in great pain. How long will I have to listen to this?
The parlor doors are open again and now there are quite a few people milling about. Hey, there's my pals from the neighborhood. Come here, come talk to me. No, don't leave, I'm so very lonely. Why won't anyone talk to me? What is going on?
My uncle and John's dad from down the street are here. They are making an awful racket, what are they building. It looks like some sort of box. My uncle is measuring me. What is this? Now, he is sort of looking at me strange and wiping his eyes. I'm getting scared. I want to talk to Mama.
It is getting dark, but the clock still says it's 2:00. Maybe the clocks have stopped. Hey, that's strange, the mirrors are all turned around facing the walls. I think I remember what that strange singing was, they call it keening. It's like a mourning song. I wonder who died and why my parents haven't told me.
I think I am starting to understand, my parents are holding a wake. I wonder why it is being held here. Maybe the dead guy's family isn't around. Wow, look at all the food everyone is bringing in. Strange, I'm still not hungry. Everybody is walking by me, but now I am in some sort of box. Still, I can't get anyone to talk to me. My whole family is sitting near me, but they won't say anything. Everyone who comes by, says something to my mother. My dad and uncles have left, I think I hear them in the kitchen. My brothers are fidgeting in their chairs and staring at the floor.
I haven't been to a wake since I was a little guy, but I do remember there was a lot of food. It looks like people are passing around a couple of pipes and a plateful of snuff. Those who aren't eating are drinking wine and whiskey. Hey, I think my dad is drunk, his eyes are so red. I've never seen him drunk. My uncle is helping him out of the room.
People are starting to leave and no one has even said a word to me. I must really be hurt. Here comes my mom. "Hey, Mom, don't look so sad, it'll be okay." My mom leans down and kisses me and starts to sob. My aunt leads her away. My brothers and sisters come by to see me. It is so strange that no one will talk to me. Finally, my dad is back. He ruffles my hair and begins to close the lid. Wait! The lid? Oh, God, the box is a coffin and I'm in it. The wake was for me! Please don't close the lid, it is too dark. I'm too young. I should have just let the ball go.
© 2010 Mary Krenz