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January: a month of funerals. Today's was the sister of my husband's maternal uncle-in-law, found dead on her couch, in the house behind the uncle's. At mass, between prayers and readings, two brothers and a grandniece played Irish traditional tunes on flutes and accordion. Then she was laid in the village cemetery, beside a wind-churned lake.

Afterwards the mourners shared a meal in the community hall, chicken and spuds and cabbage, followed by tea and strawberry cheesecake. Kathleen showed us a photo of her daughter at 9, with her husband, who died the following year. He was handsome, with vivid blue eyes and long sideburns. Kathleen pointed out the brown beret her daughter wore, the photo, slightly crumpled in her age-mottled hands. We have sat with other people's grief all this month, standing at their cold shores, and it's enough just to be present.


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