A Death in the Community? #61 #cong19


The passing away of someone can be the catalyst to bring people together and galvanise them in a show of community.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Community extends beyond people and place
  2. Shared Memories nourish community

About Turlough Rafferty:

Turlough Rafferty is a creative technologist living in the West of Ireland. He is currently acting manager of the GMIT iHub Castlebar. He was previously general manager of FotoNation (Ireland) Limited and co-founder of Promedia and other companies. His current interests are new space, the bioeconomy and digital transformation.

Contacting Turlough Rafferty:

You can follow Turlough on Twitter or connect with him through LinkedIn.

By Turlough Rafferty

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – Benjamin Franklin. But I don’t want to depress you today speaking about tax so I will go with death instead.

Every minute more than 100 people die. In America over 2 million people die annually while in the UK it is just close to a half a million. Here in Ireland over 47000 people die each year, almost 130 a day.

If that is not depressing enough, the average cost of a funeral in Ireland is about five grand. Cheer up though because in the US people are being ‘stiffed’ with a nine-grand bill. In total, the industry in the US is worth $16bn in 2017, while it is around £2bn in the UK.

If those numbers do not put a cold shiver up your spine, consider the Irish obsession with death.

RIP.ie is one of the most visited websites in Ireland. It receives over 200,000 unique visitors every day. In our local newspapers, family notices displaying memorials of our dearly departed often take up the largest part of the classified section.

At funerals facilitated by over 700 funeral directors in Ireland, it is not uncommon for up to 1000 people to attend a removal. At burial services, it can be standing room only.

It goes without saying that death galvanises community in Ireland. Someone once told me, “Sure you can more craic at an Irish funeral than at a wedding in England.” So, who knows, you could be throwing a party in your honour shortly.

Seriously though death brings people together, like a gathering of the tribes.  More so in rural areas. When we wake a family member, friend or neighbour it is a time to connect at a deep emotional level. Stories are told, secrets are shared, and old memories and places are given life anew.  In Irish community, we know our place and our role at each funeral whether it be a neighbour or family member. You are either making the tea or digging the grave, our job is to lighten the load for the family.  What we gain from this is the ability to contribute, to be part of the farewell, the celebration even!

Death is a time for introspection and renewal. It reminds us that we are bound to this earth and despite our airs and graces we are all flesh and blood with the pretty much the same worries, hopes and dreams.  We are temporal beings – ghosts even.

As we travel on this journey, we impress upon one another. This can be fleeting or can have a significant impact.  Our actions in life leave a legacy for those following in our footsteps. Shared memories form our culture and tradition.

Life is for the living, and the dead live on forever in our collected memories. Spare them a thought. They will thank you for it.

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living “

Marcus Tuillius Cicero



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