My four grandparents shared a proud Irish heritage, three with roots in the Republic of Ireland and one in Northern Ireland. So I got to know the obituary section of the newspapers under the name of Irish Sports Page. When you think about it, the name makes sense – at least to the Irish, it does – as do names like Irish Racing Form and Irish Scratch Sheet.
It became known as the Irish Sports Page a long, long time ago because not only does it keep a death toll, but it tells people where to go for funerals and burials, when to be there, who will officiate and other facts about Game Day. In the past, it offered a sort of social calendar, especially in large towns where the Irish population was most numerous.
The term may disturb you, an unpleasant subject to consider, but thinking of obituaries in this way can sometimes bring on a smile to ward off tears. And we can all use a smile or two when we’re sad.
It might be a cultural thing, part of my DNA, but it’s the first section I turn to in any newspaper. And I always feel honored when asked to write an obituary about a friend who made his home in Fiddler’s Green – a mythical house in the afterlife where beer is free, violin music fills the air. and the animated jigs never end.
In addition to solemn praise and prayers, it is not uncommon to hear at an Irish funeral:
Wrap me waxed me and Jumber
No more on the docks, I’ll be seen.
Just tell me old shipmates,
I’m taking a trip folks.
I’ll see you one day on Fiddlers Green.
You may be eager to spend your Eternal Beyond anywhere other than Fiddler’s Green, but when the time comes for what obituaries euphemistically call a ‘transition,’ enjoy a bottomless pint of frothy Guinness and endless moments. Double step jigs would be fine.
On a more serious note, obituaries are an important document in community life. I believe local historians David Nolan and Susan Parker would agree that when looking for someone from the past, an obituary is a good place to start – but with a big caveat.
For example, a seemingly humble grandmother might tell her impressionable granddaughter that when she was a young woman in 1942 she was third in the Miss America pageant. Then when grandma passes away and the family asks the granddaughter to write an obituary, it includes a mention of Atlantic City and … well, you see the picture.
Sadly, many years later, when someone like today’s David or Susan stumbles upon the embellished obituary while researching someone else’s life, they think they’ve found out. a wonderful wellness item for The Record. But when they look further, they find that Grandma was actually third runner-up as Miss St. Johns County that year, didn’t even compete in the Miss Florida pageant, and never set foot in. his life at the Warner Theater in the Atlantic. City, site of the 1942 Miss America pageant. Believe me, embellished obituaries happen in the best of families.
So as I celebrate March 17th (which should be a national holiday), I’d like to give you a toast – whether or not Ancestry has found Irish DNA in your saliva sample – – and I really hope. that I don’t see your name on the Irish sports page anytime soon. If you get to Fiddler’s Green before I do, however, please keep a stool; I will check at some point.
Meanwhile, an Irish toast from me to you: “May the saddest day in your future not be worse than the happiest day in your past. ”
Happy Saint Patrick!
Steve can be contacted at [email protected]