Sunday, October 23, 2011

Funeral for my father-in-law

For those that prayed for this weekend, thank you. We left after picking Ryan up from school on Thursday at 3:30pm, but the M0 freeway was blocked. After an hour of trying to find the next closest bridge to cross the Danube, we were in heavy traffic in the middle of Budapest. Realizing it would take another hour to even get out of the city, we gave up and headed for home exhausted. It was a rough 2 hours of time wasted on the road, but we were glad we didn't persist and start driving all night in the rain and traffic.

We got up at 3am, loaded the kids, and started driving again. This time everything was clear, the kids were asleep, and we made good progress. Luiza counted that we went through 64 villages on this two-lane road (reducing our speed to 50km in each one), but still we made record time (11 hours in all).  The return trip was even better. We got up at 4:30am and left at 5:45am Sunday morning, taking a different route near Cluj, very windy roads, but less villages, and less trucks (perhaps because of the windy mountain roads). We made the return in 10 hours and the kids slept most of the way.

The funeral went well. It was great to be able to comfort my mother-in-law, and Luiza. I met some new relatives. The boys seemed to process their grandfather's death pretty well. Ryan (age 6) got to help the gravediggers in wheeling the casket across the cemetery. He liked that a lot. Ryan said, "So it is kind of like a birthday for Bunicu, starting his new life in heaven." Kevin (age 3) said, "Isn't Bunicu going to come home with us? Why are we leaving him here (buried in the graveyard)?" Usually there are no children present at funerals. They try to shelter kids from death.

 It was a beautiful service, but an hour long in the cold room. It seemed like a good balance of expressing grief and condolences, and acknowledging that Stefan has entered a much better life. Over 100 people from church attended. There were piles of flowers on evergreen wreaths.  During the service the casket was open, and Luiza pulled back the vale so that we could see Stefan's face. She also went up and caressed his face, to remember it (her first time to touch a dead body).  The most emotional part for me was when they lowered the casket down into the 2 meter hole. It was so deep I could barely see a piece of the casket. The hole is a little deeper than normal I was told, to allow for another family member to be buried in the same location within 7 years if necessary. Then according to custom, family and friends throw in a few handfuls of dirt before the grave workers fill in the hole. Luiza said throwing in the dirt gave her a suffocating feeling, as she realized that her dad can't breath there, making the goodbye final.

Luiza explained that an Orthodox funeral in Romania is quite different. There is a lot of crying, in fact people are paid to come and cry. The priest tries to make it as emotional as possible. In one funeral she attended the priest had collected personal information about each relationship of people there, and said goodbyes for the dead person to each one in a personalized way. For example, "And Suzie says goodbye to her father Christy, tell him that I'm sorry I didn't listen to his advice and study harder in school." Luiza says it was awful, like pouring more gas on the fire of grief.

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