Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Funeral Procession

I was at the Cemetery this week shooting some film in the Holga. And while I was there a funeral procession came in under the foyer and the arches to the path that leads further into the cemetery. First came a young man carrying a small coffin covered in white satin with tufts of tulle to decorate it. It wasn't a very big coffin, bigger than for an infant but maybe for a one or two year old child. What had happened to this child? Disease? Accident?

Following behind him were children. All of them looked to be younger than school age. Some were holding another child's hand and a few had small bouquets of flowers. Then came the women, some young, some old, with their aprons and wearing rebozos wrapped around their head and shoulders. After the first two or three rows of women, there were men, mostly old men, and women walking with bouquets and empty buckets to leave the flowers in. The men wore jeans and a shirt and some had cowboy boots.

They walked along expressionless. There wasn't any weeping or wailing. As they drew nearer to me I scanned the faces, who was the Mother of this child but I couldn't tell. No one was supporting or consoling anyone except for a few of the older people that needed an arm to steady them. The older people walked with a side to side shifting of weight probably from aching joints from age and hard physical work. There was silence except for the sliding of shoes on the stone path. Even the children were giggles or running ahead. It wasn't the first time that these children had been to a funeral. They understood how they should behave.

So different than the way we treat death in the USA. We hire all the services for cremating or burying the body. We accept condolences on-line or at the funeral home. And children? No, you don't see many children at funerals. It is as if we want to protect them from knowing about death. It wasn't always that way.

I remember when my grandfather died and I was about four years old. The body was in the home. I can still see the front room clearly. The coffin was on one side of the room and my uncles and the sons-in-law were lined up in chairs along the opposite wall. Every time I came in from outside, one of them would ask me if I wanted to see Grandpa and he would lift me up to peer into the coffin. And I have other stories of deaths of friends and family while I was a child and I was taken to the funerals. And like these children, I learned how to behave.

Did I take pictures? No, except for one long distance shot. I was so touched at the sight of the tiny coffin and the humble circumstances that I couldn't raise my camera and intrude.

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