The Ultimate Irish Wake

By Judy Berman

Going out on your own terms is exactly what Walter George Bruhl Jr. did. He wrote his own obituary, and it’s hilarious.

“There will be no viewing, as his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand, so he would appear natural to visitors,” according to

This reminded me of Bernie Lomax in the movie, “Weekend at Bernie’s” (1989).

An Irish wake is an occasion for both sadness and merriment. In this movie, death is a dark comedy.

Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) had it all: a cushy executive job at a New York-based insurance company, a flashy sports car, hot babes and a beach house with endless parties.

He was the ultimate host. Just one problem. He’s dead.

Despite that, he is still the life of the party.

No one seems to notice that the party-guy is a real stiff.

That wasn’t the ending Bernie had in mind when two of his employees – Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) and Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy) – discovered someone ripped off the firm for $2 million.

Hoping this would lead to a promotion, they couldn’t wait to tell Bernie. He lured them to his beach house for the weekend with the promise of a fun getaway.

Instead, Bernie turns to his Mafia partner, Vito, and asks him to knock off Richard and Larry because they discovered his scam. The mobster, however, decides Bernie’s the one who’s got to go because he’s been getting greedy.

Having an affair with Vito’s girlfriend was the final nail in the coffin.  The mobster orders a hitman, Paulie (Don Calfa), to rub out Bernie.

Before Richard and Larry arrive at the beach house, Paulie kills Bernie. When they find his body, their weekend plans appear to be dead in the water.

Then, the partiers arrive. Richard and Larry prop Bernie up. With his sunglasses on and perpetual goofy grin from the fatal drug overdose, no one notices that he’s shed his mortal coil, and the party goes on.

Richard insists on calling the cops until he sees his office crush, Gwen Saunders (Catherine Mary Stewart), walk in.

The next morning, Richard and Larry discover a taped phone message that Bernie had accidentally recorded. On it, Bernie tells the hit man to kill his two employees and make it look like a murder-suicide.

That’s when they realize that their best bet for staying alive is to make it look like Bernie is still around.

Larry has rigged it so that Bernie appears to be waving as friends pass by. They also tie his shoes to theirs so it appears he’s walking with them. And Bernie keeps popping up in all the wrong places.

The sightings of Bernie convince Vito that Paulie has botched the job. So Paulie’s ordered to return and take care of Bernie permanently.

That’s a tall order for a guy who just won’t stay dead, and it’s driving Paulie crazy.

So, Bernie is having the time of his life death. But, I would rather have the last word like Walter George Bruhl Jr., who died March 9 in Punta Gorda, Florida, and wrote his parting shots in his obit.

For years, I’ve told my husband, Dave, that I want an Irish wake with me standing in the corner with a glass of wine. Also, a ticker-tape parade.

He assures me that he’s working on this as we speak. I’ve asked my friends to nag remind him of my final wishes.

That would be the ultimate send-off.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie trailer: Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) – starring Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Terry Kiser 

Walter George Bruhl Jr.’s obituary.

  1. About 10 years ago, I asked one of my friends to do my obituary when I died. He’s a great speaker and has a great sense of humor. I didn’t (don’t) have any intention of it being sad. He took the challenge seriously and has written and rewritten it at least 5 times constantly updating as I do things. I think the whole thing is hilarious!

      1. I went to the funeral of the son of a co-worker. He was killed by a train in his car. He was 35. Very, very sad. The line was outrageous but we could hear the strains of the Beatles. As we got into the funeral home, we heard the Eagles, the Rolling Stones, etc. Despite massive injuries they had the casket open so you could see the top part and he was dressed in a Penn State sweatshirt. It was one of the most lighthearted (if you can at all use the term in this case) funerals I have ever attended. It’s what I want. People thumping their feet to good music and remembering good times.

        note from earthrider to Kate Crimmins:
        I’ve been to a few funerals where I laughed and I cried. Family and friends told stories that reminded us all of the many good times we had. People who display photos of the departed – in various stages of their life – also brought back many happy memories.

    1. Thanks, Marian. Glad you like the post. Dave is a great guy. This morning, I wanted to be the first in line for some lab tests (nothing serious). The lab opens at 7 a.m. I was there at 6:45 a.m. Dave worried that I shouldn’t be alone in the dark so he went with me. Comforting.

      1. Dave sounds like my CareBear Cliff, even wrote a blog post about him!

        note from earthrider to Marian Beaman:
        That’s one more thing we have in common – caring spouses. 😉

  2. My friend’s older brother was dying of pancreatic cancer when WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S came out. It was also near his birthday, and he asked us to take him to see the movie and let him have all the buttered popcorn, chocolate-covered peanuts and huge-sized Coke his oncologist and his wife had forbidden him to have. At the time we didn’t know about the oncologist and wife forbidding him, so we pulled out all the stops. He ate and drank and laughed and wiped away tears, and as I drove them back to his house, he said that the movie–and the entire evening–had made him much less afraid.
    It was one of those evenings you do not forget.

  3. I’ve never seen the movie, Judy, so I’m going to look for it today. Have you seen Bernie? It came out sometime in the last two years. Also about funeral homes and death, but also very funny. (Is there something about the name — Bernie?)

    1. “Weekend at Bernie’s” is definitely worth the view, Charles. Dark, warped and slapstick-goofy. I wonder if “Bernie” is the follow up film. I haven’t seen it. Bernie seems to be a great fit with Lomax. Thanks for your comments. 😉

  4. It certainly would, Judy. Irish wakes are such a flamboyant way to bid farewell to someone you love. I think I’d want one, but I’d want to look good. Like they say in Moonstruck – I’d want an undertaker who would make me look better than I did in real life 😀

    1. It seems a much happier send off. I agree, Kate – must look presentable. 😉 Loved “Moonstruck,” but it’s been years since I’ve seen it. Loved those crazy characters.

  5. I love the quote from the obituary. When one of my Grandfathers passed, he was prepared dressed in his favorite button down sweater with a crab mallet in his hand. He was from Baltimore and had been a bus driver all his life, no one would have recognized him in a suit.

    1. That gave me a real chuckle, Amy. It sounds like he made a proper decision to dress in clothes that fit his personality and lifestyle. I’ll bet he was a real character. 😉

  6. I’ve not heard of Weekend at Bernie’s before! 1989!!! How did I miss that?! Looks hilarious fun! I was just wondering, what on earth it must have been like playing a corpse throughout the entire film – must have been a very relaxing, still experience, and at least he had no lines to learn! 😉

    Writing your own obituary sounds a quirky fun idea – everyone should get to do that, have their final say of what they thought of their own life!! 😀

    So, you want an Irish wake? I’ve never seen an Irish wake, I’ve heard my Dad talking about them when I was a child, and being an Irishman I think he would have wanted one too. But he got a more tradition English funeral, although my brother and I arranged and presented the whole service, including the bit at the graveside, which I’m sure was a shock to some attended. But it helped us not spend the whole service crying our eyes out, and I know our Dad would have had a big smile on his face – if he had been there! 🙂

    The ticker-tape parade sounds a great idea, a fabulous way to celebrate your life!! 😀

    1. I think Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) had to be the most coordinated “corpse” ever. While he didn’t have any lines, he had the most hilarious scenes. 😀

      I’ve never been to an Irish wake. The difference, regarding my desire to have one, is I’d like to be around to enjoy it. 😉 And, yes, I’m all in favor of a ticker-tape parade. That would be great fun.

      I love the memorial services where people tell stories about the dearly-departed’s life and have photos of them in various stages of life. That, to me, is a wonderful way to remember the person you knew.

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