Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Some newspapers published near Rochester, NY and newly available online, have recently come to my attention. In one of them I found this article:
A month's mind Mass was celebrated last Tuesday morning for the repose of the soul of James O'Hora.
James O'Hora was my great-great-grandfather. Like hundreds of thousands of his Irish countrymen and women he traveled to America during the famine, leaving the small townland of Ricketstown he would never see again except in memory. James died at his home in Littleville, New York one fall evening in 1902 at the age of 75. It was sudden and unexpected--while smoking his pipe his heart stopped or so the newspaper said. His death certificated attributed his death to heart disease.
While I've lost other Catholic family members over the years, I have never before heard the term "months mind". I looked around the internet and it would appear this Mass is quite commonly celebrated in Ireland around the one month anniversary of a death, but not very often elsewhere. They even put notices in the paper before the event. We of course have Masses offered for our departed loved ones, but I'm completely unfamiliar with this "months mind". I think it's a lovely custom though. Usually, the funeral follows shortly after a death, when grief is so intense it's difficult to take in everything that is happening. I don't recall half of what transpired at the funeral of my first husband, I was in shock.
After a month has passed however, most people are beginning to come to terms with what has happened, the process is far from over but it has begun in most cases. I can imagine a service then bringing family members and friends together when emotions aren't so raw. Reuniting them in their grief, but also in remembrance of their lost loved one and most important of all, in support of each other.
It seems to me the Irish have this death thing down. Even today in Ireland, at least in the countryside, the deceased is often "waked" at home, not in an impersonal, sanitized funeral home. Irish persons here in the USA did likewise not so very long ago. My Grandmother held her mother's and her uncle's wakes at her home in the late 1930's. I really dislike funeral parlors, there is something so cold and off-putting about them, (sorry funeral directors). I've told my children not to even think about calling hours in a funeral parlor when my time comes. I want a good old fashioned Irish wake, at home, and none of that embalming stuff either, so don't dawdle.
I know it's unconventional kids, but when have I ever been conventional? Just come over, hang out with me for awhile, put on my favorite Irish tunes, and pour some Irish whiskey for whoever shows up. Then afterwards, find a good Irish pub, relax, tell a few stories. Maybe compose your eulogy for my funeral Mass, or take up a collection for my 7 foot Celtic cross. And one month later, have another Mass said and hug each other. Grandpa James and I WILL be watching.