Saturday, December 1, 2007

death - oh what a pain

I went to my first funeral the other day – well at least part of one – Funerals here are as multilayered as weddings are – Me and Famila were joking that the two hardest things to do in Azerbaian are get married and Die. When someone dies there are 7 initial days of morning the 7th being the biggest, followed by every Thursday for four Thursdays then the 40th day after is import ad they are technically in morning with no TV, music, etc for the 40 days then on the year anniversary there are celebrations. The brother of my moms sister in law, who loves bbeside us, died. It was due to blood sugar, not surprising and I here common here. My mom invited me to go on the 7th day. She said she wanted me to see what Azeri funerals were like and it made the deceased happy to see a lot of people come to morn. Funerals are segregated here. The initial burial, is by the men. They carry the body to the cemetery and bury it and the women are not allowed. A big tent is set up out side the house, the men gather her, the women in the house. The hire a agucu for the women – someone who can sing and sings sad sonds, know a little religion so she can talk about it and then just talk about the persons and their life. For the men’s tent a Molla, or one of the "holy men" from the mosque (mascid) is hired. Each day they feed all they people who come and then people donate money to help cover the cost of feeding everyone and the funeral, etc. A list of people and how much they gave is kept and then given to the nearest relative or who ever at the end. I cant tell you what the men do – though I would imaging it involves drinking cay and vodka, and I am told not crying because it is considered unmanly. But the women’s side is intense to say the least. When I went it was a small apartment, a foyer, kitchen, and then two other rooms, both rectangular but one longer than the other. I cant be sure of what the two rooms were initial because they had been cleared of all there stuff and for good reason. All of the rooms formed a sort of circle, where you could walk from the foyer, to kitchen to smaller room to larger and then back into foyer without ever backtracking. And this is what people did of sorts. They would all pile in in groups through the kitchen and into the smaller room. There the group would pack 30 to 40 women all sitting on the floor literally on top of each other. Here the would sit through around or chanting, singing, prayers and crying. At the end of one round everyone would stand up and in true Azeri fashion bum rush the door to the slightly larger room. In this room the wife, immediate family and agucu were sitting. They al sat on the floor with blankets covering their laps. The goal was to pass through and pay their respects. Some then would come back to the room and start over and some new women would come in. It was a none stop cycle from early morning till about 5 in the evening. There were probably over 100 women packed into this small are at all times. All looking morning, some outright sobbing, some beating their chests. The neighbors apartment had been cleared out and table brought in to feed people in shifts. Unfortunately I was unaware of what was going on. After the other apartment I was looking forward to sitting down and eating peacefully for a few moments. They herded me in rushed food out and then before I knew it were shuffling me back out. There were so many people everyone had to speed eat.
It was intense enough to make me cry and I have no idea who the man was or what he was like. All of this made me think about it. Was it healthy, is it better to morn openly with a group and let it out than to horde it like our society seems too. It would seem yea, logically I think it is better to morn openly, to let it out and let everyone see, to have such a strong support network. However, the fact that it even made me cry mad me wonder how many of the people were crying because they actually felt something or was it just reactionary. Toward the end I was crying because I was watching my aunt and then started thinking about how I would loose it if I lost my brother. But then I guess even that is fine, tears are tears and they are good. The problem to me is this. Afterward I went to Famila and she was explaining what I did not understand while I was there. She said that it has in large become a facade. If you do not cry enough, throw a big enough shindig, serve good enough food, it will be said you sis not care for the person who has died, making it impossible to tell what is true emotion and what is an act in order to save face. It is just a shame to me that in societies all around the world people are not just allowed to feel the emotions they feel, always having to pin them in or force them out, always having to put on shows and fronts, that even in the face of death we cant learn to just live and let live.

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