At a recent funeral I came across this wonderful, evocative poem especially appropriate for a Catholic funeral Mass. This was the first time I’d heard this and it struck me as a wonderful celebration of how ordinary things brings us closer together.

When all the others were away at Mass

Sonnet 3 from Clearances. by Seamus Heaney

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each others’ work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives-
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

Irish born Seamus Heaney (3 April 1939 – 30 August 2013) was the recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature.​ He has been described as “the most important Irish poet since Yeats” and on his death in 2013, The Independent described him as “probably the best-known poet in the world.”

Sonnet 3: ‘When all the others were away at Mass’
From New Selected poems 1966-1987

​© Estate of Seamus Heaney