coffin

IT’s a common bond we don’t want to have.  But for so many of us in West Belfast, we have experienced the sudden no warning death of a close friend.

If you’ve been through it, you’ll vividly remember the place you stood when you got word of what happened.  Your voice makes a sound you’ve never done before.  Your normal poise, just gives way.  Powerless you collapse and allow this foreign wail to take over your emotions.  A hard knot forms in the throat.

You’re refusing to believe it until you see your friend for yourself.  You need to be near people to talk about what has happened, to assert each other that they didn’t mean to do it.  The police come and ask questions, they search for a note and take some possessions away for evidence.

Someone makes contact with an undertaker and you hear your friend’s name being given over the phone.  The local paper is phoned for placing an insertion with the funeral arranged for later.  That sound makes another appearance.

How can someone the same age as you be here one day but gone the next?  Why did you not spot the warning signs? Why were you not there to help them, to save them from the traumatic act of leaving this earth?  So many questions that will never be answered no matter how many mediums you visit.

Friends and family gather at the wake house, your friend shows up in a hearse.  Cue that nasty wail as they get carried in in a box.  The rent-a-mourners are milling about.  They don’t seem as overcome with grief as you do, they don’t have many memories to speak of.  You question their reasons for being there.

As your friend’s coffin is opened, it’s the first you see them since that last time you laughed and joked together.  You notice the brass plate on the coffin lid with their name and birth date. Remembering how many birthdays you celebrated together and then that awful date, the one you would forever recognise as the worst day of your life.

Dirty looks are thrown at mourners who say the body is looking peaceful or like themselves.  There is no craic like the usual Irish wakes we know and love.  The only feeling in the house is of stunned disbelief. A feeling of not needing to be there, doing this ridiculous ceremony that should only be reserved for old people.

Then the anger kicks in.  Looking at your friend, you hold their freezing cold hands and say in your head “look what you have done to your Mummy and Daddy, your sisters and brothers will never be the same again.  Why would you want to hurt them like this?  You’ve got kids, why would you do this to them?  What has been going on in your head that would make you do something like this? But then you crumble again and let that wail out.

No matter how hard you think things are, you can get help but you’ll need to fight for it.  Even if you think society has no place for you, someone somewhere does enjoy your company – so stick around, even if its just for them.

First published in Facebook Notes on June 12, 2013

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