Sunrise is late these days. It is something to do with the tilt of the Earth that even after the solstice the arrival of the daylight continues to get later for a time. So it is that at nine o’clock, there is the light of dawn.
The temperature is struggling to rise above zero. The weather app says there is a wind chill and that it feels like minus three outside.
Of course, it is not really cold, not properly cold. There are no extremes here, no wildfire inducing heat in summer, no fuel freezing cold in winter.
If there is a quality in which the place is extreme, perhaps it is in greyness.
The ancient Greek writer Ptolemy called the land “Iouernia,” which in Latin became “Hibernia,” associating it with “Hibernus” meaning wintry. “Hibernus,” however, has its roots in a much older word “heimrinos” meaning “grey.”
If Hibernia, grey, is place, it is also a time, it is a mood.
A black suit has been taken from the wardrobe,black shoes are polished; white shirt, black tie, and a black overcoat.
Grey expresses the mood of those who gather. The frost underfoot is not as cold the chill emotional blanket over those who walk in silence.
What does one say? What is there to be said? No words can be remotely adequate in response to the pain faced by a family.
There is a moment of pondering how it could have happened? How could a young person who has a vomiting bug on Christmas Eve die from heart failure in the early hours of Christmas morning? How could the intensive care unit not have saved her? This is not how the story is meant to end.
There are more than a thousand people gathered in the vast 1940s red-brick building. There is no buzz of conversation, no greetings, not a voice to be heard.
At the end, her father stands to speak. He begins by saying that this was the speech he would have hoped to make on her wedding day. To have continued from opening sentence must have been an extraordinary effort of will.
His daughter, the one who bore the Hebrew name for a princess, had been born on Christmas Day 1998 and had died on Christmas Day twenty-three years later. It was to have been the day on which she announced her engagement to be married.
Her father speaks with extraordinary dignity and composure, he speaks of the beauty of the life of his daughter, he speaks of the overwhelming pain brought by her loss. The ovation at the end speaks of the bond of solidarity within the place.
Outside, the silence continues. There is no laughter, no cigarettes are lit, there are none of the exchanges common to Irish funerals.
Pink balloons are released into the air in her memory.