Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Paying Respects to the Deceased

Last Sunday is the traditional day when all Orthodox Christians pay their respects to deceased friends and relatives. All the work over the past weeks maintaining grave sites, painting the little fences, weeding and planting was in preparation for this day. People came from not only Zhovti Vody but from all over Ukraine from the looks of the busses and cars. Possibly several thousand people flowed through the cemetery from early in the morning until late at night.

While my Tanya stayed home with Masha, I was privileged to drive Natasha Markova; Masha’s other Babushka, along with Andrei and Tanya to visit grave sites of Natasha’s parents, a son who died in infancy and her husband and his father. Natasha’s mother, Tanya’s grandmother, passed away only this January. She was in her 80’s. Natasha’s Mother-in-Law, Baba Halia, is still living, well into her 80’s but not able to accompany us.

Our first stop was where Natasha’s parents were buried in another large cemetery across the river from our home that Tanya and I were not even aware of. It was established in the 80’s and is almost filled with graves as well. (How can one small city have so many dead people in so few decades?) While there were real flowers blooming around the graves, Natasha placed artificial flowers as well, then set out a small dish of candy on each grave. A small lunch was set out on a nearby table and three small glasses of cognac drunk in their memory (I was the designated driver). The toasts are accompanied by the words “царство небесное” Tsarstvo Nebesnoye – the Kingdom of Heaven.

Then we drove back to the cemetery near us and stopped at a tiny unmarked grave. Natasha and Tanya tenderly pulled weeds and grass, leaving daffodils to bloom. Again, artificial flowers and a small amount f candy, lunch and a single toast. Finally we stopped at the grave of her husband, (Tanya’s father) and his father, (Tanya’s grandfather). More flowers, more lunch and three toasts of vodka. Natasha’s husband died 11 years ago at the age of 46. His father had died 12 years earlier at the age of 56.

We also stopped briefly at the graves of three of Andrei’s friends. There were five schoolmates, now only two left. A gas explosion and two car accidents. No country for old men.

1 comment:

  1. That's really sad but beautiful. What a nice way to pay tribute to thoe whom mean so much to you.


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