Thoughts on an Irish Funeral

I never cease to be amazed by the warmth and support offered by neighbours, friends and families at Irish funerals. My appreciation of this warmth was brought back to the forefront of my mind when I very recently undertook the sad journey to the home of a man who had tragically died in a farm accident.

As we neared the house we were greeted by a small army of volunteers, clad in reflective gear, and directing traffic into a nearby field which had been offered as a space where visitors could safely park their cars.  Outside the house, a sturdy temporary shelter had been constructed with scaffolding supports to protect arriving visitors from any harsh weather that might occur during the two days when the body of the deceased person was reposing in the house.

Another army of volunteers provided tea, sandwiches, biscuits and cakes for the very many hundreds of neighbours and friends who streamed through the small premises during this period in advance of the funeral proper. In ireland, this time of waiting, visiting, praying and offering comfort to the relatives of a deceased is called a “wake”.

The tragic circumstances of this man’s death did not add to the number of visitors nor did it distinguish the procedure from what is the normal custom in rural Ireland.  Some years ago,  on the death of my own mother in law, the same care, attention and consolation were lavished upon her family by all comers on just the same scale.  On that occasion, one of the most moving sights on the way to the house where “Gran”, as we all lovingly called her, was laid out, was the sight of her neighbours digging her grave in the nearby cemetery, a tradition that is still common in rural Ireland, a meaningful tribute of love paid to a deceased neighbour.

Nor is this comforting confined to rural areas. My brother in law died in a large Irish town some years ago and his death was accompanied by a huge outpouring of support and grief from the many people who knew and loved him.

This natural friendliness and support offered to a grieving family is something to be treasured in a world where death and its formalities tend to be anaesthetised.   The final departure of any of us is a time when warmth and support is required, clinical attention to the removal process is just not sufficient.  Long may these traditions last as a comfort to families who have lost loved ones.

Tony Brady – Dublin – 1 October 2016

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Gratitude for Jobs Well Done

I am overwhelmed time and again by the sight of people doing a good job.

You might ask “Well isn’t it only right that they would do a good job? Are they not being paid?” Yes, of course, that is the case, but the skill and efficiency of people at their work is a constant source of amazement to me.

I am someone who finds it trouble to put a nail into a wall, who requires all kinds of gadgetry to enable me to horizontally attach a shelf to a wall. I would need excavation equipment just to lay down a simple path, and I have succeeded in putting together a TV stand from Ikea and finding myself with an alarming number of screws and bolts left over. I caution against sitting on the edge of this gravity defying construction.

So, when I look out my window these days and see workmen arriving before 7.30am at a house across the road to carry out extensive renovations as efficiently as they appear to do, it is a source of wonder. And in our own house, we have been blessed with plumbers who make plumbing seem like child’s play, tilers who make tiling a dawdle, carpenters who make the re-alignment of locks and doors not just a game of chance.

Quite a few of the people who are the objects of my praise and admiration are from abroad, sometimes referred to as “non-nationals” or, more disparagingly, “foreigners”. Without myself falling into the racism trap, I have to add that the work ethic I have seen demonstrated by people who have come to Ireland from abroad to seek a living, is an example to any of us born here on our green island. Then again, people who tear themselves way from home so as to build a new and better life abroad have a motivation that the easy-going and less ambitious among us can often lack. Fair play to them for packing their lives into their suitcases and setting out in search of better prospects. We are all the inhabitants of one world, and every one of us is, thankfully, very different from every other.

So today I give thanks for all good work and for all good workers who amaze me by their skill.

Tony – Dublin 20 September 2016

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Thank Your Lucky Stars

If you have the technology to listen to or read meditations such this you are among the most privileged people ever to have walked on the face of the earth and among the most privileged people alive today.  T

”Life is not a problem. It is a miracle, a gift, a teaching, a celebration. Thanksgiving acknowledges the miracle of life –  It says that we live in a world of beautifully interacting thankfulness” – Daphne Rose Kingma

So what have we to be thankful for today?

If we take a moment to think back on countless thousands of years of human history, it is hard to find what might be accurately called “the good old days” for the average woman or man in the street.   Life might have been bearable for the few people at the top. But even kings, queens, emperors and persons whose every wish was obeyed would stand in awe at the opportunities with which anyone reading this is blessed today.

Cynthia Ozick tells us ”We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”

So let’s take a little time out for reflection on all the good things with which we are surrounded and which, in the hurry of our busy lives, we may have failed to notice.

Think of people, talents, good fortune, reasonable health, sufficient belongings.  Just look around, pause, think.

So here we are, surrounded by so many reasons for contentment in a world which is still so unequally divided.  This thought will and should unsettle us.   Meditation is not a comfortable sit on a cushion for a lucky minority living in a world which, for them, is a world of plenty.  Meditation helps us to see things as they really are and sometimes what we see is a need for action to put things right.   In Buddhism, the term you find is “engaged Buddhism”.  Engaged Buddhism calls us to look at how we spend our lives and how our lives have an effect on others.  You don’t need to be a Buddhist in order to see this idea arising as the consequence of reflection.

Let’s think about the ways in which we might help to make this world a better place. How can we live so that our lives will have made some little difference? Can we live a life that might leave the world a little better than we found it?

This does not mean running for political office (perhaps it does for some!) but it does mean all of us looking at our daily choices. How can we share what we have in talents or in material goods with the less well off?   Can we offer people an opportunity to get on their feet?  Can we think about what we buy, how far has it travelled and what about the working condition of those who toil, in sometimes awful circumstances, so that we can have what we want when we go out to buy?

The call is not that you or I should change the world but that you and I can each change our own world.

We each just have to make a difference to the life of even one person.

It is like that vary familiar story about the boy on the shore rescuing a starfish. There are multiple versions of this story floating around but the original idea comes from “The Star Thrower” published in 1969 by Loren Eiseley.

This is one of the variations:

Early one morning, a man was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and he found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that the boy was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  As the boy came closer the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves.” The young man continued  “When the sun gets high, they will die unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said to the old man “It made a difference to that one!”

So we should never doubt our ability to make a difference.

And never forget that our good fortune and the gratitude that follows from it urges us to make that difference.

Never doubt  that every ordinary person, people just like you and me, can make that difference.

A closing thought, like our opening reflection, is also from Daphne Rose Kingma.

“Saying “you’re welcome” affirms that we live in a world awash with treasures, with miracles and blessings, that we are blessed with an endless array of people, moments, experiences, surprises, magic, curiosities, and beautiful coincidences to which our only delighted, ecstatic, and unchanging response should be thanksgiving.”

May each of our lives be filled with endless reasons for gratitude and may gratitude inspire us to make a difference to the people around us.

Tony – Dublin 8th September 2016

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The Gratitude Response

Gratitude offers you an invitation to open wide the door to happiness and admit more contentment into your life. It encourages you to pause and reflect on the countless reasons for gratefulness that arise from all the supportive people and events of your life.

The Gratitude Response is your opportunity to express thanks for all the numberless gifts of your life. Thankfulness is an antidote to the mistaken belief that we are entitled as of right to everything we might desire. This false sense of entitlement leads to an endless cycle of discontent.

An Attitude of Gratitude gives you an opportunity to break that cycle of restlessness and enjoy the happiness that is the natural reward of gratitude.

So I hope you will forgive a little bit of self-promotion in order to publicise my book The Gratitude Response which is published on Amazon

By going to the Amazon site you can take a look inside, decide to buy it as a paperback of as a Kindle book readable on a kindle or computer or tablet, and if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited you can even read the entire book for free.

We are surrounded by reasons for gratitude every minute of every day.  This book introduces you to many of those reasons and it encourages you to watch out for more reasons of your own.

I would appreciate if you read The Gratitude Response to please take a minute of two to rate it so that others can see if it might be useful to them in the daily effort to live a happier life.

Thank you very much and may your every day be filled with reasons for gratitude and joy.

Tony Brady – Dublin – 27 June 2016

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