Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Greek Funeral

...or Rather, a Greek Burial
Thursday, 20 October
Last night, Ianna’s mother died, at the age on ninety-something. She had lived a good life and even had her husband with her right up until last year.

So we got the word in the late morning and the funeral was to be at two o’clock. (Bodies here are not embalmed because that’s not actually the Orthodox way, so they are put into the ground with all due haste.)

Well, due to the strikes, there was no bus or taxi service for us, so Mena agreed to come pick us up; that would only make us a tiny bit late, she said.

What she hadn’t realized was, her car was out of gas. Long story we can skip, but refueling the car caused more delay.

Then the traffic was heavier than usual, as everybody who couldn’t use a bus or taxi was driving a car.

So the upshot of it was, we missed the funeral service altogether, and only arrived as the coffin was being carried from the on-site chapel to the grave. The graveside service consisted of one short prayer by the priest. Then the coffin, still open but with the body wrapped in a sheet, was lowered by hand into the ground. I was surprised to see the grave was no more than four feet deep. People threw flowers on top of the body. Then the lid was put on, and then the shoveling commenced, while we were still standing there.

We moved on over to the reception hall, where we were all seated at one very long table. They don’t have a *makaria* the way Greeks in America do, no huge meal, just cognac,coffee, water and coffee to drink and small muffins and chocolate candies. You sit there for a while, you sip, you munch, you stand up eventually and go hug the family and take your leave.

I have to tell you, this cemetery is a full-service place. It not only has a real church on site, it also has a bus stop, a café set up for receptions, and a flower shop. Maybe they even sell caskets; I don’t know.

The memorial stones are not like ours. These are thick little monuments, with built-in glass chambers where you can put your icon/s, and some of them even contain a box with a lock where you can keep candles and incense, for when you visit, or a vase for fresh flowers. You can also have a photo of your loved one somehow made permanent, printed on stone it looks like, attached to the marker.

I think Ianna was still in shock; I mean, there had only been a few hours between the death and the burial. The whole thing’s over with before there’s even been time to quite realize it.

She’s doing okay, though. It’s not as though we grieved the way pagans would, who have no “sure and certain hope” of the resurrection.