This week, unfortunately, I attended the funeral of my supervisor’s mom. I was amazingly surprised how Irish culture differs from the Cuban from this perspective. Irish people see life in death. Therefore, celebrating a funeral is just a way to express gratitude to someone’s life, which is just completely different from my culture where we just see death as the end of a person’s life. Irish celebrate this event while Cubans cannot help but only cry during funerals. Although I had a completely different point of view of death itself, I could understand why Irish people celebrate this moment the way they do.
First of all, the day started with the Mass to worship the dead body. The ceremony took place in a modern Catholic church, which was full of family members and friends. Around 80% of Irish people are Catholic which means the majority of the Irish population believes in God and attends Mass regularly. In contrast, Cuba has been an atheist country since 1959; however, the largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic church but just a few percentage of the population practices it. Therefore, as a Cuban atheist, this was my first time ever attending a ceremony (Mass) like this.
During the Mass, I received a copy of the prayer book and there were funeral readings along with lovely performances of a pianist and a singer between every lectures and prayer. At the end of it, my supervisor gave a beautiful speech highlighting her mom’s anecdotes and memories. It was so encouraging and inspiring. I think it was sad but at the same time a beautiful moment.
Following the Mass, we head to the cemetery with the family and close friends. They again did some prayers and a priest gave a short speech as well.
In Irish culture, after the mass and the burial, families, and friends go to either a family member’s house or a pub. In this ceremony, the family rented the restaurant of a pub and it seemed I was at a wedding dinner party. They created a menu exclusively for this, where guests could choose three different meal courses. The food was delicious and I was surprised that everyone was enjoying and making jokes during the dinner. They even said an Irish joke that says: “What’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral?” and it is that “For weddings, you need to give people invitations.”
From this experience, I learned Irish funerals are more than worshiping someone’s death, it is also about celebrating life and gathering all the family members together.