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Tuesday 12 December 2023

Shane MacGowan's Funeral - A Fairytale of New York

"Fairytale of New York" is a song written by and recorded by London-based band the Pogues, featuring singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl on vocals. 

If you don’t know the song, it is an Irish folk-style ballad and was written as a duet, with the Pogues' singer Shane MacGowan taking the role of the male character and Kirsty MacColl playing the female character. 

It was originally released as a single on 23 November 1987 and later featured on the Pogues' 1988 album 'If I Should Fall from Grace with God'. It is frequently cited as the best Christmas song of all time in various television, radio, and magazine-related polls.

A reading from the songbook of Shane MacGowan:

It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank

An old man said to me, “Won’t see another one”

And then he sang a song: “The Rare Old Mountain Dew”

I turned my face away and dreamed about you

Sadly this year we lost Shane MacGowan, an incredible and poignant soulful Irish singer. MacGowan would have turned 66 on Christmas Day. Both singers of the song Kirsty and Shane have now passed. 

Much like the haunting melodies and poignant lyrics of "Fairytale of New York," grief can evoke a myriad of emotions—sadness, nostalgia, anger, and even a touch of bittersweet humor.

The song's melodic verses capture the essence of this emotional journey—a tale of shattered dreams, dashed hopes, and the yearning for something more. Just as the characters in the song grapple with their past and present, we too navigate the intricate pathways of grief. We remember moments of joy and love, only to be reminded of their absence.  It's in these moments of raw vulnerability that we learn the true strength of the human spirit. The song's poignant narrative resonates, depicting the struggle to find solace and hope in the midst of despair. Yet, within the depths of sorrow, there's a profound beauty—a beauty that arises from the memories shared and the love that transcends time. 

Shane's funeral took place in his home place of Nenagh, Co Tipperary with Father Pat Gilbert, the local priest overseeing the service and it was filled with incredible readings, prayers and music that filled the church of St. Mary of the Rosary

(It is, and was, an incredible testament to how the Irish 'do' funerals. People dancing in the aisles, laughing, crying and memorializing. We at Muldowney Memorials try to bring that Irish spirit of celebrating a life while mourning a loss into every service that we do. It was lovely to see our dear friends Green Graveyard/Green Coffins on display too showcasing Irish artisans) Shane's funeral epitomized this equal life celebration and mourning of the incredible musician and man that he was.)

Infamous actor Johnny Depp read the first Prayer of the Faithful (see below). There were readings from incredible “Game of Thrones” Irish actor Aiden Gillen and former Irish Political leader (Sinn Féin) Gerry Adams. 

“We pray for a deeper spirit of compassion in the world....May we feel the pain of others, understand their need and reach out to all who suffer in any way with a continuous love that is rooted in faith and peace. Lord, hear us.” ~ Johnny Depp - Prayer of the Faithful

Spoken words were interspersed with beautiful renditions of Shane MacGowan’s music including:

  • Nick Cave performed “A Rainy Night in Soho” accompanied by Colm Mac Con Iomaire on the fiddle and Glen Hansard on guitar. 
  • MacGowan’s former bandmate, Cáit O’Riordan, sang The Pogues’s traditional song ‘A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday’ alongside Irish folk musician, John Francis Flynn. 
  • Glen Hansard and Lisa O'Neill sang “Fairytale of New York.” (see below video)
  • Irish singers Mundy and Camille O'Sullivan sang "Haunted" - a duet that MacGowan recorded with the late Sinead O'Connor who also died earlier this year. Mundy described his performance at the Mass as "a moment I'll never forget"
  • Four of the surviving Pogues - Jem Finer, Terry Woods, Spider Stacy, and James Fearnley, performed the Funeral Service finale “The Parting Glass.” (see below video)
  • The funeral procession that began that morning in Dublin and ended at the church paused at one point as the infamous Artane Band, (a marching band of young musicians) played an instrumental “Fairytale of New York,” while the local Irish crowd sang along. Along the route, other impromptu musicians performed “Dirty Old Town,” which was first recorded by an English folk singer called Ewan MacColl but later made famous by Shane's band The Pogues and others played The Pogues “A Pair of Brown Eyes.”

Coffin/Casket was by our dear friends Green Coffins Ireland

Also as part of the funeral service, Shane MacGowan’s wife, Victoria May Clarke, presented some tokens/symbols in an offering which included:

  • His Crock of Gold book 
  • A Buddha
  • Book of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake
  • A Led Zeppelin album
  • His wedding photo with Victoria
  • And a tray that Pogues member Spider Stacy would sometimes “bash over Shane’s head” 

She said:

“so many beautiful people are pouring their hearts and souls into making it magnificent and magical and memorable for him and for us who are left behind.”

It's a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there's a glimmer of light, 

a hope that sustains us through the storm.

Fairytale of New York

As we listen to the verses of "Fairytale of New York," let us acknowledge that grief is not a linear journey. It's an unpredictable dance between heartache and healing. Just like the song's lyrics paint a vivid picture of life's struggles, grief, too, paints a canvas of emotions that make us human.

May the song's melody serve as a reminder that amidst the pain, there's a harmony waiting to be heard—a melody of love, resilience, and the enduring spirit that helps us navigate the intricate notes of grief. 

Let us cherish the memories, honor the past, and find solace in the love that remains.

Parting Glass

“Shane’s veins ran with Irish blood,” Shane's sister Siobhan said. 

“Shane, you did what you dreamed, You did what you said were going to do in those long ago days in Tipperary, and you did it with such heart and fire – a fire that is not dimmed by death.”

Thursday 9 November 2023

Best and Worst Things to Say to people in grief

Recently Oprah posted an article about dealing with people who are grieving. Here at The Glam Reaper (And Muldowney Memorials) we understand grieving to be loss of any kind - watch my TedTalk to hear my view directly. 

Loss can be the loss of a job, a partner (death/divorce), a child (death/divorce/emancipation/distance/kidnapping), a pet (death/stolen/divorce), an object that was stolen or a home that was ransacked or just simply sold. It can be a myriad of things and more so we need to be gentle with each other and with ourselves on how we deal with others who are grieving. 

Grief specialist /counselor and author David Kessler  says 

“the most visited page (on his website is the ‘Best and Worst Things to Say’ to people in grief, and it is most visited in the middle of the night….This tells me that people are up, trying to figure out the right words.”

Here are *some of the tips that are provided in the Oprah Daily article

*altered slightly, as we dont agree 100% with everything suggested in the article

  • Don’t avoid the topic.
    •  They haven’t forgotten the loss, they never will. Avoidance doesn’t help, it just ignores the elephant in the room. If it's a person or a pet - use their name. Recall memories naturally. The love is still there, that doesn't go away.
  • Don’t “bright side” the situation. 
    • I confess that sometimes I have to stop myself from being a ‘positive polly’ with friends because, like most of us when a friend is in pain, we just want to make them feel better. This can have a time and a place and there is no harm in asking when in doubt. Listening is the best tool you can be armed with as a friend, and if you listen well, you'll hear the right moment (if one comes) to help them focus on the future or the best.
  • Offer tangible support
    • "I can bring your dinners on these days, is that helpful?"
    • "Let me walk your other dogs/feed your other pets for you next week"
    • "Can I bring you to the courthouse/cemetery one of the days this week?"
  • When you go blank, just be honest. 
    • “I just don’t know what to say”
    • "I have no clue what this pain must be like but tell me, if you want. I'm here to just sit with you"
    • "I wish I had some words that would help"
  • Say nothing, just BE with the person. Physical contact can also help when permitted.

    None of this is easy or is there a perfect way to go about it. It's rough no matter what information you are armed with. There is a lot on Kesslers website I personally disagree with and he is a 'specialist' so all that tells me is reaffirming that GRIEF IS UNIQUE and completely personal and individualized. There is no right or wrong way but merely helpful information and knowledge we can arm ourselves with to help BE there for our loved ones who are going through it.

Friday 27 October 2023

The Glam Reaper Goes to Guyana!

It's time for another Glam Reaper adventure, this time to Guyana! We crossed off one more to-do from our bucket list. Yay! Join Jen as she journeys to the Land of Many Waters to explore its rich culture and history and discover beautiful destinations and meet new people. It was an eventful 11-day trip with lots of sailing and fun!

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A Quick Look at a Guyanese Funeral


Have you ever wondered how the Guyanese honor their dead? Join Jen as she takes a closer look at the unique funeral culture and traditions that shape the way people in Guyana bid farewell to their deceased.

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Wednesday 23 August 2023

Return Home: Honoring Life's Journey Beyond with Brienna Smith


In this episode of The Glam Reaper podcast, your host Jennifer sits down with Brienna Smith, the Chief Operating Officer of Return Home—a full-service green funeral home offering Terramation (human composting services). They dive into important topics that might sound unfamiliar but are essential for understanding the cycle of life.

Return Home was born with the idea of providing families with a kind, clear, and open way to take care of their loved ones after they pass away. It’s a unique and natural approach that keeps the circle of life going. 

And while the concept of Terramation may sound strange, it's also a way to let a person's body become part of the Earth again naturally. No fancy chemicals, just nature doing its thing.

Ever wondered how long it takes for a body to return to the Earth? Brienna breaks it down for us. It's not something we think about every day, but understanding the process can help us appreciate the Earth's ways.

Methane and other gases are also on the agenda. You’ve probably only heard these terms in science class, but here, they're connected to the natural process of a body returning to the Earth. Brienna explains how these gases are involved in the cycle.

Tune in to this episode to learn about these down-to-earth topics on how to embrace the end of life with openness while understanding the natural journey we all take.

- The Birth of Return Home: Providing families access to inclusive, gentle, transparent death care that continues the cycle of life
- What is human composting?
- How long does it take to return a body to Earth?
- What role do methane and other gases play in the process of terramation?

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Thursday 10 August 2023

Dying, Dining: Amber the Mortician’s Kitchen Tales


Welcome to another episode of the Glam Reaper Podcast! This time, Jennifer sits down with Amber Carvaly, who you probably know as the 'Mortician in the Kitchen'. Curious how she got that name? Tune in as Amber shares her life story and everything that led her to this special title.

But there is more to this conversation than just Amber’s story, as she and Jennifer also chat about topics that some find hard to talk about: death, dying, and yes, even food. So if you’ve ever thought of turning feelings of loss into something tasty, you’re not alone! Stream this episode and learn about Amber’s unique recipe, which is inspired by the ways we remember and honor our loved ones. And, make sure you don’t miss out on their tips on how you can make it easier to talk about difficult topics such as death and dying. 

We hope you enjoy this episode!

- Amber’s journey through life that led her to becoming the ‘Mortician in the Kitchen’
- The fascinating and oftentimes taboo topics of death, dying, and food
- Irish funerals and food
- How to bring these taboo topics to light and make them more accessible for everyone.
- Converting grief into recipes: A recipe inspired by funerals and memorial services

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Sunday 30 July 2023

Breaking Taboos on Death, Grief, and Loss: The Jennifer Stritch Interview


Welcome to another episode of The Glam Reaper Podcast! This week, your host, Jennifer, welcomes an exceptional guest who shares not only her name but also a deep interest in understanding the complexities of loss, grief, and death. Meet Jennifer Moran Stritch, a leading light in the field of grief research at the Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest.

First up, Jennifer walks us through her personal journey. From her early interests and experiences to her current position as the Primary Principal Investigator of the Loss and Grief Research Group, we'll get an insightful glimpse into the path that led her to become an expert in this field.

Then, we dive into something that is often overlooked in schools—the all-important conversation surrounding loss, grief, and death. Why is it that these vital subjects don't make it to the classroom discussion often enough? Listen as Jennifer shares her perspective on this crucial issue and emphasizes the importance of breaking the silence around these ‘taboos’ in schools.

And, as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically shifted the world's perspective on many things, including how we view death. Our two Jennifers delve into this significant shift and explore how the global health crisis has changed our collective understanding and experience of death.

Finally, we cap off this episode with a fascinating look at the evolution of how people perceive death. How have our views changed from the past to the present? What can we learn from these changes? 

Don't miss out on this intriguing discussion! Join us on this journey as we continue to demystify death and provide a safe space for these essential conversations. Whether you're a faithful follower or a new listener, this episode of The Glam Reaper Podcast is sure to provide valuable insights and foster a deeper understanding of life's ultimate inevitability—death.

- Get to know more about Jennifer Moran Stritch’s background and journey
- Why students don't talk enough about loss, grief, and death
- The importance of talking about loss, grief, and death in schools
- How COVID drastically changed the way people view death
- The evolution of people’s perspective on death: Past vs. Present

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Thursday 20 July 2023

Hope, Resilience, and Death: A Candid Conversation with Dr. Kathryn Mannix


In this heartwarming episode of The Glam Reaper Podcast, your host Jennifer Muldowney sits down with the amazing Dr. Kathryn Mannix, author of the insightful and thought-provoking book 'With The End In Mind.' Together, they delve into the profound wisdom of dying and death that the book captures.

Dr. Mannix's contributions to the realm of palliative care extend far beyond authorship. She is recognized for initiating the first Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) clinic exclusively dedicated to palliative care patients, potentially a global first. She has also created a 'CBT First Aid' training module designed to empower her fellow healthcare professionals and help them up-skill and improve patient care. 

The topic of death often invokes fear and apprehension. However, Dr. Mannix's extensive experience in caring for the dying suggests an alternative perspective, one that portrays death as less frightening and more peaceful than generally perceived. This episode highlights the reasons behind the common fear of dying and discuss potential ways to alleviate such anxieties. 

But today's discussion is not just about death and the fears that people associate with it. It’s also a conversation of hope and resilience, as Dr. Mannix also tells stories from her years in palliative care that highlight these qualities. These narratives are proof that love and hope can flourish even in the most challenging circumstances. 

Stream this episode and join us for this insightful and inspirational discussion on hope, resilience, and death.

- Dr. Mannix’s book, With the End in Mind, which reacquaints us with the universal, but deeply personal, process of dying
- Her 30-year career in palliative care and her life’s journey
- How Dr. Katherine's experience in palliative care reveals that the process of dying can be less frightening and more peaceful
- Why most people fear dying
- The beauty of human resilience: Dr. Kathryn’s stories from dark places of hope and love

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Thursday 13 July 2023

Tom Anderson: A Day in the Life of a Funeral Director


Ever wondered what it’s like to be a funeral director? In this brand-new episode of The Glam Reaper podcast, host Jennifer walks us through a day in the life of a funeral director along with her special guest, Tom Anderson.

Tom has been in the industry as a funeral director since the year 1980. Since then, he has worked at and owned a funeral home before selling it in 2013. He also started the blog, Funeral Director Daily, focusing on death care, funeral service, cremation, and related subjects and serving as a free source of news and information on the funeral care business. 

Tune in as Jennifer and Tom talk about important matters in the funeral industry, what it means to be a funeral director and how the recent innovations in the funeral industry are helping save the environment.

Hit the play button for more scientific but interesting facts that revolve around life and death! Enjoy!

- Tom’s background and how he became a funeral director
- An overview of Tom’s blog, Funeral Director Daily and the different topics it covers
- Tom’s thoughts about cremation and how it can help the environment
- An overview of the responsibilities of a funeral director

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Wednesday 12 July 2023

Healing Tails: Louise Griffey's Approach to Pet Loss


Welcome to another soul-stirring episode of The Glam Reaper podcast! This time, our host, Jennifer, invites us into a heart-to-heart conversation with Louise Griffey, the founder of Light After Loss. 

Louise isn't just your typical guest - she's an Advanced Grief Recovery Method Specialist specializing in helping individuals grieving the loss of a pet. With her journey marked by the end of a significant relationship and the loss of her beloved pets, she found solace and purpose in The Grief Recovery Method®. Her experience is a compelling exploration of grief, recovery, and the strength of the human spirit.

This episode of The Glam Reaper is a profound conversation that underscores the power of empathy, compassion, and resilience in the healing process. Here, Louise's dedication to assisting others through their grief, whether it concerns a human or a pet, shines brightly. This is not just a conversation; it's an invitation to understand the power of healing.

Join Jennifer and Louise for an inspiring and insightful episode that offers a fresh perspective on loss, love, and the journey towards recovery.


- Louise’s journey through life that led her to found Light After Loss
- How does the Grief Recovery Method work? 
- The therapeutic benefits of the Pet Loss Support program
- Different ways to overcome pet loss

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Monday 3 July 2023

Funeral Community Workers Mental Health Crisis

When faced with a problem or something unpleasant, does anyone else’s mind go to worst-case scenario or down a rabbit hole of ‘what if’? This can be applied to grief, but it can also apply to some of the situations we, in the funeral community, face on a daily and monthly basis. We must protect our own minds and spirits if we are to best serve others. 

There is a way out or a way to save ourselves from this pit of a rabbit hole and it is called ‘scheduled worry time’. The strategy has even been portrayed in popular media in the TV show ‘Shrinking’. It essentially entails setting aside 15 minutes daily to truly immerse oneself in sadness, worry, or unpleasant feelings. It is actively sitting with these horridly intense and debilitating feelings for a set period of time that may otherwise come and go throughout the day.

In the Irish language, instead of simply saying "I am sad," we say “Tá Brón Orm” which is sadness is on me. As Pádraig Ó Tuama, the poet notes, "Something else will be on me another time, and that's a good thing to recognize." Having the 15 minutes of scheduled worry or grieving time means it has a place in our day, our week and it acknowledges the feeling we are feeling any way but usually in an erratic and debilitating way. ‘Sadness is on me’ is an Irish way of acknowledging the feeling but knowing that in another time something else will be ‘on me’ so 15 minutes of letting sadness or worry ‘be on us’ but that it is temporary and only here until tomorrow’s 15 minutes. 

It is not clear cut of course, grief and anxiety rarely are, but having these 15 minutes where you can truly let go and then put it back in its worry box until the next day, allows you to healthily deal with it daily without letting it control you. There are also different types of this. For me, I allow myself certain activities for a few weeks or a month – such as not going to the gym or going to bed at 8pm if that’s what I feel my brain and body need and then once that time is up, I must resume ‘normal’ behaviours and routines. The 15 minutes will look different to everyone and is even mentioned on the UK’s NHS website. It is a proven cognitive behavioural therapy.

So let us honour our emotions, knowing that they come and go like waves and that they are an important part of the human experience.

I spoke on May 16 last at the Funeral Professionals Peer Support Meeting on Zoom about the topic of mental health in our community. Read more on this topic here CANA Self Care I also chatted with Barbara Kemmis of CANA about this issue on my podcast – The Glam Reaper. Grieving is essential and that includes our own. Look after yourselves.

Sunday 2 July 2023

Flameless Cremation: A Change for the Better with Ed Gazvoda


Ever heard of flameless cremation? If you haven’t yet, it’s about time you did! Welcome to another episode of the Glam Reaper Podcast, where host Jennifer talks about life, love, loss, and funerals. 

Today’s special guest is Ed Gazvoda, president of Fireless Cremation and co-inventor of aquamation 2.0 for humans, pets and labs. In this intriguing episode, Ed gives us an overview of fireless cremation–what it is and all the processes involved. Delve into a real eye-opener as Ed takes us on a deep dive into the science of alkaline hydrolysis and some of the legalities involved in the process.  

Curious to know how this form of cremation differs from the usual one you know? Hit the play button and jump right in! 


- A little background about Ed and how he started his business

- More information about alkaline hydrolysis and its legal bases

- The difference between fireless cremation and regular cremation

- All about fireless cremation and the processes involved

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