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All about my mother: It’s weird the way people refer to the dead as 'If they're still alive'

She's dead set on info, says Emer O'Brien

My mother, like a lot of women of a certain age, has a bit of a death thing. By this, I mean that she likes to hear the details of funerals, starts conversations with, "Do you know who died?", and looks up deaths in the newspaper as a matter of ritual.

It's evening when the phone rings. I know it's her because EastEnders has just finished.

"Did you get a newspaper today?" She's in such a rush she forgets to even say hello.

"Em. Hello. No, I didn't get out to pick one up."

I know this reinforces my mother's view that most journalists sit around all day in their pyjamas trying not to leave the house, dossing around online.

"Oh, I just wanted you to look something up for me".

"What? A story? Gossip?"

"No, er, a death."

"Christ. Who died?"

"An old neighbour of your granny's. I just wanted to see when she's going to the church."

It's weird the way people refer to dead people like this, as if they're still alive.

"Could you ask someone?" I say.

I know that she could, but will probably get more info from the paper ("tragically" or "suddenly").

"No, that'd be prying."

"You know you can look it up online?"

"Emer, your father is on that computer morning, noon and night. And I don't even know what paper it was in."

"You don't need to know."

"What do you mean?"

"There's a special site you can look at."

"How do you mean?"

"It's just for death notices."

"Get away. What's it called?"


"Jesus, that's very morbid. Wait 'til I get a pen."

She covers the phone receiver and asks my father to turn on the computer.