Liam Farrell: Shouldering the burden of therapeutic grief

Local funerals, unfortunately, pass right by our health centre, and I have to duck out of sight as the cortege looks over accusingly.

If I'm spotted, some Trotskyite agitator is sure to shout: 'You should have sent him for that X-ray,' or 'I told you he needed an antibiotic.'

But I understand; emotions run high, we Celts are a volatile people. If I've had to forcibly restrain one grieving widow from throwing herself into the grave after the coffin, I've had to restrain 20. And, of course, once one does it everyone has to do it, in case people think they didn't care.

A few years ago, our cousins insisted on carrying Uncle Paudge the whole way from their home to the graveyard. Our ancient graveyard is picturesquely but inconveniently sited on a hilltop and is one hell of a carry. Previous accepted practice had been to use the hearse for most of the journey, and rely on muscle power for only the last few theatrical yards. But yet again, one family thoughtlessly sets a precedent, and the spectacle of corteges pitifully collapsing in exhaustion half way up the hill has now become commonplace.

At a recent funeral I was strolling along at the back, quite enjoying the walk, when the rate of attrition at the front became too great, I became a leader instead of a follower, and willy-nilly was pressed into service, just as we reached a temporary but steep decline. I was at the front, my partner on the other side was considerably shorter than me, and the deceased had been a very big man. So all the weight was on my collarbone, the pain was excruciating, and I thought for one terrible moment that I would have to stop, put down the coffin, and say: 'Sorry folks, but your dad was just too fat.'

But you can't do that, can you, might as well admit you are only half a man; my whole family would have been shamed. So fear lent me the strength and I endured till the bitter end.

This all sounds like a lot of fun, but there is grave purpose afoot. Shedding the grief in one blaze of glory is undoubtedly therapeutic; life must go on, and consequently the aforesaid grieving widows, having had their catharsis, can take a moment to freshen up their mascara, shimmy right out of that black dress, and start flirting with the undertaker.

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