40 days

Yesterday marked 40 days since the death of my mother in law.  Another tough couple of days with tears flowing freely for Refika.  She was truly a remarkable woman and loved by so many people.

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Having never attended a Turkish funeral I really had no idea what was going to happen and due to the speed in which a funeral happens here (same day) I did not even have time to gather my thoughts or ask what to expect.

Refika had been feeling under the weather for some time.  She had had heart surgery 2 years earlier however the surgery was not a success and she had never really recovered.  She was still her welcoming and wonderful self to us when we arrived although it was obvious that she was not doing as well as she could have been.  Her death, however, was a complete shock.  I certainly did not anticipate it and when The Turk received a call from the hospital at 5 am requesting that the family attend I knew, as did he, that it was not going to be good news.

By 7 am two trucks arrived with chairs, apparently this funeral was going to be attended by hundreds of aile (family) and also her many friends that she had made over the years.  I am not exaggerating when I say there was over 400 chairs delivered and set up on the street.  A portable morgue, of sorts, was then delivered and set up in the driveway.  I was told that this was where Refika would be washed by a hodja (female washer) and prepared for her journey to paradise.

At this point I started to freak out a little as people were arriving in their droves and clearly I had no idea what was going on or what was expected of me.  Those who know me know that I am not really one to show emotion but the crying, nay wailing, that had already begun was the most awful thing I think I had ever heard in my life.  Of course I had been to funerals before.  My beloved parents, extended family members and also to support my friends in their time of grief.  I have not, however, been to anything like this.

When Refika was brought home absolute bedlam broke out.  There was a lot of screaming and wailing, a lot of tears.  The grief was almost too much for me to bear and I tried to keep out of everyone’s way but before I knew it Daughter and I were brought into the portable morgue to say goodbye.  Daughter was distraught – although I let her come to my father’s funeral two years ago that was a western funeral and quite sedate in comparison – in my mind I kept wishing she had gone to school that morning as her cousins had done to protect her from the emotion and grief.

After Refika had been washed and prepared for burial the imam (leader of Islamic community) arrived and gave a prayer.  The men then took her body and placed it in a casket where it was then settled onto the back of a truck and taken to the mezarlik (cemetery) for burial.  Interestingly women are not invited to attend at the burial.  They will attend the next morning to pay their respect.

There was a constant stream of family members attending over the next seven days.  From early morning through late in the evening there was visitors coming to pay their respects.  The mourning areas were separated – one for the men and one for the ladies.  This annoyed me as the men got to sit in the sunshine while us ladies were segregated to the rear of the property in the shade (and you wonder why people kept getting sick).  Cay was constantly being served and meals were delivered by neighbours for next seven days which is the first part of the mourning period.  By this stage I began to hide as between the tears and the stress of attending on a daily basis was beginning to take its toll on me.

On the seventh day the iman re-attended at our home and gave another prayer for Refika.  This was also the day that a sheep was sacrificed and meals were prepared for all of our neighbours and fellow mourners.  This now marked the end of the official seven days of mourning.

The next date of commemoration will be the 52nd day although again I am unsure exactly what this will entail.

I am glad that we were in Turkey before Refika passed away.  I am glad that Daughter spent at least some time every day with her.  I am glad that The Turk was able to be with her in the end and I am glad that I had met and loved this wonderful women.  She will be missed by me and missed by anyone who ever met her.

Başiniz sağ olsun (Let health be on your head)

4 thoughts on “40 days

  1. Hard to believe it is 40 days. Traditions differ so very much to what we’re used to.
    But as you say at the end of your post, The Turk was with Refika at the end, your Daughter was able to spend some time with her, and you met and loved this very special woman. That in itself is precious.

    Like

  2. I hate “liking” this, as there is nothing to like about grief. But the grieving period is necessary, and to experience Turkey’s cultural tradition through your words was informative. Your genuine sadness and missing of your warm mother-in-law make it so honest. Heartfelt compassion across the distance to you and your family.

    Like

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