I didn’t know her well but I could feel a lump in my throat as tears stung the corners of my eyes. Anna was married to my husband’s second cousin. What I remember about her is that she was an amazing gardener and she inspired me to make my own flower displays after a visit to her home in Recco.
Anna died three days ago after a short battle with bone cancer. She originally fought off lung cancer but this time there was no escape. Her death was a shock because she always appeared to be the strongest one of the bunch and she was also the youngest.
This has been my first experience with Italian funerals. Quite similar to my Canadian experiences, there were two days of visitation or as we say in English, the “wake”. In Italian it was referred to as the “Rosario”, presumably because there are prayers with the traditional Catholic Rosary.
There were noticeable differences from my own experiences though and I would like to share them with you here:
First of all, Anna was laid to rest on the bed in her home and family and friends gathered there with the priest to say prayers. In Canada we do this sort of thing in a Funeral home. This didn’t seem all that strange to me although I couldn’t bring myself to enter her bedroom to say goodbye. Although I did catch a glimpse of her bare feet and was a tiny bit curious as to how she was dressed…but not curious enough.
The second thing that was quite different from my own experiences was the funeral. The church part was typical (although I was surprised at the casual attire of the attendees-Mama insisted that I wear a very formal, black ensemble that made me feel like Morticia Adams next to the 8o-year old blue hairs wearing beige and dresses with blue flowers!) but the burial part was indeed not like anything I have ever experienced before.
The casket was quite ordinary looking so I assumed that perhaps she was being cremated but I was wrong. As we made our procession up the hill to the cemetery we gathered in front of a massive wall with a rectangular hole in it. Anna was gently placed inside the hole and looking around I had guessed that they would just place a white slab of marble over the opening and that was that.
Not so fast…that was not that at all! Two men and a wheel barrel got to work and built a wall, brick by painstaking brick. As I watched in horror I begged my husband to never place me in a wall and then place a brick wall in front of me. I know Anna is dead, but the idea of having a brick wall outside the coffin suffocated me. I want dirt. I want the ground to surround me and take me back to Mother Nature’s arms. Not some cold, concrete and stone box that will lock my Spirit in darkness until eternity.
I know some people say the shoveling of the dirt is hard to watch but most people watch a few tosses of dirt and then leave. We had to watch as the wall was completely sealed shut. How incredibly final.
One last note: My husband said that space is so limited in Liguria that after several years the body is exhumed and if there’s nothing left but bones then they’re transferred to a smaller box so as to make space for the next corpse…kinda creepy eh?
Ironically, today is St. Anna’s day here in Italy. Quite befitting for a super sweet lady.
FYI: when I die I want to be dressed in a long, fancy red dress. I want everyone to wear bright colours to my funeral and not worry about the political correctness of it. Then I will be placed somewhere in the ground where the roots of flowers and plants surround me. Heck, if it makes you feel better, form a circle holding hands and sing Koom-by-a…and anyone with a tambourine is welcomed. Okay, maybe the red dress is a bit much. My favourite colour is yellow anyways ; )
Hey! You didn’t think I was going to do a serious post without lightening up the mood a bit in the end, did ya?