UPDATE November 11: Mr. Frank Walsh, in a letter to the Irish Times, disagrees with Mr. Byrne on how funerals and the grieving process have changed in Ireland:
I never cease to be amazed at how we Irish continue to celebrate and embrace death so excellently.
The morgue is now giving way to families’ increasing desire to bring the body home for a wake, not just for a few hours but overnight, so that neighbours and friends can gather as a community for lashings of tea, cakes, sandwiches, etc, all prepared by the neighbours as genuine gestures of friendship and community.
Seems some folks still know how to celebrate a life…
UPDATE November 10: The IrishTimes.com reports on Mr. Byrne’s appearance at the Mater Hospital in Dublin on November 8.
Ireland’s cultural ambassador and actor Gabriel Byrne is embraced by
Anita Brennan, head of catering at the Mater hospital, Dublin,
during his visit to compliment staff
for their involvement in the Hospice-Friendly Hospitals Programme.
Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
UPDATE November 8
Article from The Post.ie, dated October 10:
Star-studded IHF campaign
Christy Moore, Sinead O’Connor, Gay Byrne and Maeve Binchy have all recorded adverts to support the Irish Hospice Foundation’s fundraising campaign, the theme of which is gratitude.
The Thank You Campaign will be launched on October 21, and will be supported by a national advertising, PR and social media drive.
The foundation will be selling thank-you cards and a thank-you book, the sixth in the line of Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) publications, following on from others like the Whoseday Book (1999), Peter and the Wolf (2005), LifeStory (2007) and Zest! (2009).
Meanwhile, the first-ever national Thank You Day will take place on November 25.
The cards and book include messages from celebrities such as Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson, Martin Sheen, Sheila O’Flanagan, Brian Friel and Seamus Heaney. Producer Bill Hughes came up with the idea for the campaign, while award-winning designer Steve Averill oversaw the design.
On the ambassadorial front, we find Gabriel Byrne continuing his commitment to improved hospice care in Ireland, according to the Irish Times:
Ireland’s cultural ambassador, Byrne, is attending Dublin’s Mater Hospital on Monday November 8, to thank staff in the hospital for their involvement in the Hospice Friendly Hospitals Programme, and to encourage them to continue their work to improve end-of-life care.
Read more about Hospice Friendly Hospitals, an initiative of the Irish Hospice Foundation. There are several videos provided by Gabriel Byrne at this website (although not all of them work at present…).
On a personal note: as someone who has just lost a loved one, I find Mr. Byrne’s commitment to improving hospice and end-of-life care in his home country inspiring and compelling.