On a remote Irish island, close to shore, at the bedside of a dying man, in the company of the mná caointe, with the sound of the rosary booming off the ceiling, I felt both the revelation and the burden of My Father’s Wake descend on my shoulders. I saw a way of dealing with death that dwelt amongst us as far back as the fall of Troy, long before the blinding of our Western Death Machine. My task was to help with the remembering.
In my all death hunting, I have been often graced by the kindness, generosity and painful heart-exposed honesty of hundreds of other lives. I hope the words here offered will be a reward for the time vested in a passing stranger and my debt in some measure repaid. Now my work is done. My promise, to the best of my ability, fulfilled and the work of others begun – to judge these words and journeys amongst the living and the dead and act upon them if they so wish.
All that is described within these pages is true, and has been lived or lost. To protect the living and dead, names and places have been changed, and the chronologies of time altered, and I have no apology for this. The river of understanding flows beneath and above the earth and returns, often, back on itself.
I know the recounting will not necessarily be easy or comfortable for every reader. I wish this was not so but the wisdom I have learnt from my fathers and mothers on the island directly challenges, sometimes painfully, the denial that surrounds death in the Western world.
May you live your life in the light and not be touched by the worst of these seen and felt sorrows. And may you too find in death the grace I discovered so present in the Irish Wake.
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