The Pre Wake (Part 3/3)

The Pre Wake (Part 3)


“Yes, indeed,” I concurred, “we’ll be along to the dining room shortly. Just give us a moment to compose ourselves, make us fit for present company.”


“I am sorry, Robert, Polly, but the Pre Wake is over,” Adrienne said, with a steel in her voice that hadn’t been present before. Her eyes moved from me to the coffin.


I turned to look where her eyes pointed and, slowly, surely, as if he was being effortlessly pulled on strings rather than pushing up from below, I saw my son, John Sullivan, deceased, sit bolt upright, his eyes still closed.


“Ah, right on time,” I heard Adrienne say from behind me, “now we have moved from the Pre onto the Wake.”


All I could hear, as my legs buckled beneath me, was Pauline’s ear-piercing scream.




I must’ve struck my head when I fell in a faint, as my ears were still ringing and my eyes couldn’t quite focus on my wrist watch when I awoke. I was lying on a chaise longue. I was still in the flickering candle-lit ante chamber where the coffin was, so the padded sofa must have been carried in after I fainted. I could see a cloudy vision of the coffin from where I lay, and noted that my son wasn't sitting up inside it any longer.


I felt sure that I hadn’t imagined it, at least I was almost sure. As a priest and bishop, dealing with death was a large part of the life that I had led all my working career. Naturally, I had heard undertakers tell of such stories of dead men sitting up on rare occasions, saying something about trapped gases in stomach and lungs overcoming the stiffness of rigor mortis. As soon as the gas finds a path to vent, the body loses that buoyancy and collapses back into the coffin with a sigh real enough to give the witnessing bereaved false hope that the newly departed had returned. I had never experienced it myself, but the undertakers or gravediggers retelling the tale were often in continuous day and night contact with any number of bodies in their charge, so I had little reason to completely discount the tale, other than regard it as a story worth retelling as a means to earn the gravediggers and pall bearers a free drink in the pub afterwards.


As my head cleared, I felt I ...

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Tony Spencer
Aug 15 2021

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