Before Hughie’s wake could begin, Mum sat in the room fingering her rosary, just waiting. How often had she waited for the men in her life to come home? Consumed in herself as she remembered the past, she remained barely conscious of what was going on around her.
There was a hum of conversation. Her daughters talked about their lives, their jobs, their children and each other. She heard, but never heeded. She waited. She prayed. Soon her waiting would be over. No more would she stand at the back of the house peering into the night, while overhead the Northern Lights wove their multi-coloured patterns across the sky. No more listening for the sound of an approaching sleigh, or the rattle of a wagon, or the throb of an engine.
Still for the moment she waited and prayed. Prayer was her sole defence. It helped her to ward off, to hold at bay, to defer, for as long as possible, accepting the unacceptable, the incomprehensible, for it was beyond her understanding how and why it should have happened.
Finally my father brought him home. He arrived in his coffin that would not go through the porch door, so the window of the little bedroom – his bedroom – has to be dismantled. When he had left the house the previous Saturday evening he had promised mother that he would be home in time to drive her to Mass on Sunday morning. But in the early hours of Sunday morning the car in which he was a passenger crashed through the railings of a bridge and fell upside down in the river. He drowned.
But now the coffin arrived finally back to the house.