Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Mar Mousseh

Too complicated: Burying a 90 year-old man

One of the uncles (the mother side) of my brother-in-law has passed away at the age of 90.  The old uncle has been suffering lately, and he was an elected official “mokhtar” for the last 30 years.  Basically, a mokhtar is to acknowledge your residency and sign on official photos… My mother insisted that I represent the family.  I don’t know this old man and barely know his extended family.  My mother is in no way a VIP or running for election, but she wants to be represented because she was not feeling well and wanted to be with father, who has not been in a good shape lately.

My brother-in-law also insisted that I represent my family, and that I wear a formal vest since the weather is cool.  I declined the suggestion and we drove up for a 15-minutes drive, around 3:30pm with my sister Raymonde.  The burying ceremony was to be held at 5 pm.  The road was barely large enough for one car, but it is available in both ways, and cars are parked on the street:  We had to backtrack to free space for incoming cars and trucks.

Women were accepting condolence in the house of the deceased, and men in the house of the brother, a hundred-yard away.  We shake hands saying “May God be gentle with his soul” (Allah yerhamo) or “Our consolation is for your being alive” (al3awad bi salamtak).  The close relatives kiss cheeks and try hard to shed a few tears.

I sat put in the balcony with arcades, and watched stranger men stream in and out, waiting for the time to accompany the dead man to his grave.  I wondered: “It would be nice to be able to name typical faces without much description.  Kind of a taxonomy or a catalogue of typical features.”  I overheard bribes of talks, like “I have 12 sacs of dried wood for the next winter.  Since I purchased a heater with mazout, come and carry away the sacs in your van before the sacs rot out…”

I was under the impression that the ceremony starts at 5 pm, but I overheard someone saying: “We have to wait till 5:30”  The weather was getting chilly for this hot season:  Looks like climatic changes is advantageous to Lebanon.  Usually, by the end of April it never rains till mid September; this year, it has been raining every two weeks, even in June, and the weather is cool.  I love this cool weather, especially the occasional rain:  We save money on purchasing water trucks for watering the gardens and resuming ploughing…

At 5:30 pm sharp, the “cortege” got in movement and we followed “leu leu” in indian file to the women residence where the body was displayed.  Two priests had started the prayer.  I could not see the body:  It was crowded in the room and I didn’t feel that curious.

Fifteen minutes later, the gasket was carried by six men and loaded in a black funeral limousine. A few women joined the demonstration of cars to the church, a couple of miles away.  A woman came out and shouted: “Custom wants that women do not go to church”.  The few hardy women didn’t give a damn for this particular custom:  They were anxious for a change in scenery.

We attended mass and listened to a speech by one of the priests on the qualities of the deceased person.  Twenty minutes later, we walked behind the limousine to the grave yard, half a mile away.  Grave yards in Christian areas have been transformed into enclosed corridor with boxes on both sides of the walls, large enough to insert the gasket.  Every family purchase a burying box for these eventualities.  The corridor was dark: The boxes were painted black with a white cross on.  I just watched from the outside.

I have no idea of the process of disposing of the gasket or the body later on.  Most probably, the gasket is retrieved and the bones are collected when another member of family dies in order to making room.  Where the bones are dumped?  Most probably in an open public waste dump, as every thing else:  Town people ignite open waste site, occasionally, because the successive governments in this non-State country have more important things to worry about.

We returned to the women-house to present our convalescence to the bereaved women.  My brother-in-law decided to pay visit to two of his aunts, sickly aunts who could not be present.  One of the aunt had pneumonia; the other had lost her son-in-law to cancer and the young man was buried in the same day, somewhere else, I guess in Mar Mousseh.

It was 8:30 pm when I arrived home.  I thought: “Wasting five hours is worth writing and publishing this diary.”




February 2023

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