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Death and the pandemic: The centuries-old tradition of the Irish wake will never die out

Covid 19 has changed the way we mourn our dead, but it cannot do away with our need for a sense of community when we grieve

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Author and film-maker Kevin Toolis near his home on Achill Island, Co Mayo. Photo: Keith Heneghan

Author and film-maker Kevin Toolis near his home on Achill Island, Co Mayo. Photo: Keith Heneghan

Photo : Keith Heneghan / Phocus

Author and film-maker Kevin Toolis near his home on Achill Island, Co Mayo. Photo: Keith Heneghan

Is this our new way of dying? Standing apart?

Standing apart on roadsides watching hearses drive by. Standing apart in church grounds as the over-spill from socially-distanced church funerals. Standing apart, too, in graveyards, watching coffins interred in earth around no more than a huddle of mourners. And never ever shaking the hand of the bereaved to offer our sorrow?

The pandemic has ruptured a definitive marker of Irish culture, the open rituals of the Irish way of death, the wake, the gathering in of neighbours and community at funerals.


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