Family Stories

The demise of Uncle Charlie

One day my Grandmother's sister Sarah came running into my Grandmother's house in floods of tears announcing that her husband, Charlie, had died the evening before. She said the undertaker had been and had left her with a list of the services he provided and how much each cost One of the services was to bring the deceased downstairs. She figured she could save ten shillings if the boys could do that for her. The boys, my father and his brother, were summoned. How could they say "no". So off they went with their hearts in their mouths, never having seen a dead person before. They shuffled and jostled at the top of the stairs not wanting to be the first in the room. Finally they and the deceased were in the room together. Uncle Charlie had a penny over each eye and a fleeting thought went through my father's mind but he felt the punishment might be more than two pennies were worth.

The next dilemma was how to get him downstairs without actually touching him. They finally decided to take the corners of the sheet and lift him onto a door from which they had removed the hinges and laid on the floor. All went well. They manoeuvred him through the door and started down the stairs. Once both boys were on the way down a huge groan of air trapped in Uncle Charlie's lungs erupted. The boys dropped everything and fled the house while Uncle Charlie made his own way down the stairs.

The wake began that evening. Like all true Irish wakes Uncle Charlie was in his casket propped up against the wall with a bottle of Guinness close by. Fiddle music filled the room and everyone got gloriously drunk. My father's eyes swept the floor, as the pennies were no longer on Charlie's eyes.

Another death in the family

As I child I always adopted animals from the farm as my pets. One such pet was the imaginatively named rabbit - Bun. Bun had soft grey hair and big brown eyes and snuggled in my arms with obvious delight. There was no way Bun was destined for the stew pot.

One day my Grandfather came into the kitchen and told my grandmother that he thought Bun's time had come. He was listless and had refused a particularly succulent carrot. By the evening Bun was still alive - just. After I had gone to bed they discussed how they would tell me and handle the situation. They settled on the St. Francis and the rainbow bridge story and what was tantamount to a rabbit state funeral. Grandpa built an oak coffin inscribed Bun.

At breakfast the following morning the kitchen door burst open and I came in clutching Bun by his ears. "Buns dead" I announced dropping him on the kitchen table before running outside again to collect the eggs.


Family Stories


Pamela was born in England and came to Canada in 1968. She had several poems published in The Voice of Youth in England. Now she is retired she has picked up her pen again and is enjoying her first steps into writing.
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