The village cemetery, filled with pristine white grave markers, is four miles outside of town along the Pan American highway. A mass is held at the church. If a family can afford it, the casket is loaded onto the back of a small pickup truck for the journey down the highway. Mourners walk behind. If there is no vehicle, the casket is loaded onto the shoulders of strong men, and everyone walks. At this time of year, they are likely to walk in pelting rain. Mourners will wear their best clothes. A few will have umbrellas.
I wonder if Minga’s three Evangelical daughters and their children will go to the Catholic Mass? I actually don’t know.
After, people will gather at Minga’s home to share their grief and to reminisce. There will be no food or drink; no one can afford that. There will be tears, and consolation. Minga would like having her home filled with people. Everyone will come. She is one of the oldest people in the village, worthy of everyone’s respect.
The funeral and interment will be on Saturday. They don’t usually embalm, but I’m wondering if they will. That’s a long time from Tuesday.
I thought about turning around and going back, but probably won’t. I’m much more focused on time with the living, less so on the rituals of death. My next trip there is in mid-January. We’ve planned a big family fiesta at Minga’s house, and I’m going to to urge everyone to continue with the planning and to come. The one thing Minga wanted more than anything is that her family stick together and support each other. Gathering everyone a few weeks after her death would be a start on that pattern. It’s one last thing I can do for her, to remind them of her wishes.
This is a big extended family, and there will be a re-alignment in the wake of their mother’s death. This is where family of the heart and blood family diverge; I will have no part in that re-alignment. I can only remind them, as their mother’s friend of 50 years, of her daily prayer that they stay together, love each other, support each other.
Life without their mother begins.