In life, there were no airs or graces to Dolores O’Riordan.
In death, her humility was reflected in how her family, friends, and fans paid tribute.
The Cranberries were from Limerick, Ireland, and the band stayed true to their roots. Over the past week, in the many comments from those who knew her personally, the over-riding theme was that she was down to earth, kind, and always had time for others.
Yesterday she was laid to rest in her local parish, next to her father. Rather than descending on her family in huge numbers, her Limerick supporters left her family in peace. They had already said goodbye.
Many of these fans had been with her since the early days of “Cranberry Saw Us” (too much of a mouthful for Limerick folks, who love to shorten names), when Dolores was so nervous that she performed with her back to the audience.
And while she overcame those nerves and rose to global stardom, she never lost her basic down to earthiness. This ensured she remained dear to people, who considered her their queen of rock. But she was more than royalty—she was one of them.
In my late teens and early 20s, I personally knew one of her brothers—not very well, as he was shy, but well enough to know he was really nice, and from good stock. And like many others, he hasn’t crossed my mind much since we graduated from college in the early 90s.
Oh, but he has been on my mind aplenty this week!
Because Dolores wasn’t just a global rock star. She was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a colleague, a friend.
And all of these people have lost so much more than a role model or an idol. They’ve lost the physical presence of a real person from their everyday lives.
And the people of Limerick knew and respected that. And they respected that her funeral would be a private affair.
Likewise, her family knew and respected how much Dolores meant to her fans. And so Limerick’s three day mourning period began on Sunday with a public reposal. In a manner usually reserved for state dignatories, Dolores was laid out in an open coffin at St Joseph’s Church in Limerick city. And her fans turned out in their thousands, queuing through miserable January weather to say farewell.
On Monday, while she lay in reposal closer to home, her fans gathered in Arthur’s Quay Park in the city to join local musicians in a singalong tribute. This was their last formal goodbye to their queen, as Tuesday was for family, close friends, and a few dignitaries.
International media may have descended on the village yesterday, but locals ensured they were kept at a respectful distance. One exception was made for a local radio station, who were permitted by the family to broadcast the funeral live, with fans tuning in from all over the world. Every other radio station in the country simultaneously played “When You’re Gone” after the midday news.
As I listened to the funeral, I was struck by its ordinariness. This was no show for fans, but a very traditional Irish funeral. The only unusual element to it was how much of the music was the voice of the deceased herself.
There was no eulogy at the end. The task of commenting on how Dolores lived her life and affected the lives of others was left to a family friend, Canon Liam McNamara, who led the mass. This is how it has been traditionally been done in Ireland, although in recent years it’s not uncommon for someone close to the deceased to deliver a eulogy at the end of the service.
Dolores’ funeral was traditional, and as I listened along, I couldn’t help wondering if the family was closely following the same format they would have agreed on, with Dolores, for her father’s funeral in 2011.
I won’t lie, I had been hoping for a eulogy. But as it ended in the traditional and simple manner, it occurred to me that it was fitting. Dolores had always remained true to the Catholic faith she was raised with. And besides, there was no need to eulogise—the music and the tributes of fans did that for her.
As one of the tributes left by her coffin stated, “The song has ended, but the memories linger on.”
R.I.P. Dolores, we’ll miss you when you’re gone.