David Arioch – Jornalismo Cultural

Jornalismo Cultural

Visit the dead

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How could it be gloomy if there are plants growing around the graves?


I didn’t consider a graveyard as a dark place. Quite the opposite (Photo: Copy)

In my childhood, I liked to go to the cemetery. I didn’t go there very often, but the experience quite pleased me, because it gave me the impression that I was entering another world, where the living meets the dead. I didn’t consider a graveyard as a dark place. Quite the opposite. How could it be gloomy if there are plants growing around the graves? If dogs and cats frequent the place?

It wasn’t hard to understand why. The calm, the preeminent silence on most days, allowed the most attentive beings hear the sounds of the earth, besides harmony and dissonance of the species in their insightful relationships with nature. I still remember a couple of chalk-browed mockingbirds singing a short distance from the grave of my great-grandmother, a few steps from the necropolis entrance.

The soft chirping accompanied the solemn breeze that came as a breath. It protruded from the top of a tree, where cotton, grass and dry twigs were a nest-shaped basket. “Hmm … one will be born”, I thought. Suddenly, a thrush leaned next to the white wall, renovated with lime, and started scratching the ground in search of food. He watched me without worry and continued scratching the soil, perhaps confident in his shrewdness, as he was at home, where the stranger was me.

I turned away and walked to the left to read the inscriptions and epitaphs written extemporaneously in concrete or engraved on bronze plates. “Why are the graves so different? They couldn’t be equals?”, I asked my parents. They explained that the greatest normally belong to the rich. Some people believe that the bigger the grave, the higher the level of importance of the deceased. Based on this pharaonic belief, it is assumed that even strangers will be attracted by the mausoleums. The impressiveness always helped them stand out among the rest, as a flourish that naively romanticize the inevitable fate of all beings.

In my reflections, tombs, however different they were, reminded me of product packaging or gift packages. I mean, no matter how sumptuous the grave was, the truth is that they are regarded with the same matter. Some mausoleums I saw as strongholds created to protect or ensure the fragile human transience. Doors, windows and large rings made me suspect that perhaps the family believed in the possibility of a return of the deceased loved one. “Do they think that one day the dead will get up and walk out the door?”, I asked.

I also learned that sometimes a homeric tomb may reveal a material form of affection, or delayed compensation to the dead for some misunderstanding or meager participation in your life. I heard stories of people moved by flagellant remorse spent small fortunes in the construction of tombs. Some works cost more expensive than a house. The materials were brought from other parts of Brazil and other countries, thus ensuring the catacomb a sui generis privilege.

“Did you know that Orlando’s family hired a mannerist artist to create the project of the grave?” I heard this one morning. Perhaps there was an intrinsic relationship with the memorial or human absurdity before the finitude, an exercise in symbolic perpetuation. “Let’s create something so that he is never forgotten. For centuries after his death he is still remembered. Even though none of us live long, others, even strangers, will be here to see him”, someone thinks, refusing to believe that the death of our always changes something within us, but the world will continue following his natural course, confirming our smallness, regardless of our pain.

Looking around, and seeing both assortment of colors, types, sizes and decorations, I remembered a lesson from teacher Babeto. He showed us photos of a graveyard in France, where death reaffirms the indistinctness of humans. On the green lawn was just white crosses in concrete. Everything seemed so uniform, harmonious, fair and consistent. After all, there is nothing to be proved when life fades, as we are what we do in life.

Perhaps some are too passionate to accept that their loved ones were also overcome by passing, like so many others. So, I don’t doubt that for some, the grave is now seen as an address, where the end is to be postponed until the time that the last brick or marble was wrapping the coffin.

Anyway, I never felt as intrigued by mausoleums, like how I felt for old graves, helpless, relegated to ostracism – which rarely receive visits from family and friends of the deceased. Curious and inquisitive, I found vaults abandoned for decades, built by families that no longer exist, with stories and surnames lost in time – obsolete and extinct as rare specimens. Some graves have vanished because they were not perpetual, mostly of peasants or humble people.

In the 1990s, for example, I visited the grave of two little girls that were ten years old, childhood friends of my mother. On a rainy day in the 1960s, they were struck by lightning while they washed dishes in the back of the house. They died in agony on a dirt floor that darkened the light hair that covered their faces.

The tragedy touched many ranchers who walked on foot for long distances to pray for the children, helpless, in the most allegorical of weaknesses, surrounded by coffee plantations that soon would cease to bloom and bear fruit. Mistress Mary visited her daughter and niece until the day that no perpetual tomb was destroyed to make way for another deceased child, who did not run the risk of having his remains relocated because they paid enough for that privilege. I received that news three years ago, after searching the vault in vain.

I have memories of how small the two tombs were. No bronze plates, photos, names or any information. Over time, and without fanfare, they continued to exist for a few to the full and figured fading material. “They were good girls. But the cycle of them in this place is over. Maybe it was better that way. The mother suffered too much”, said an old lady with a plaintive smile.

I walked to another grave, watching this old lady who introduced herself as Tania. Her glittering and vernal eyes contrasted with her skin and slender face pied by the action of the time. She had a sweet voice, from who accepts what life offers, and no matter how small the gift, she still grateful. Tania visited her husband once a month since 1957, which is when he died as a result of malaria.

He worked building roads in my town, until one day he became ill and could not get up anymore. He did not receive the last two months of work. “I went to the boss’s house to get the unpaid wages. Hence the man shouted: ‘I have nothing for you, woman! My business was with your husband. Get out of here!’ I was not angry because of it. I just left”, she told me. Years later, Tania learned that the man was shot to death because he sold a farm with two houses, and he tried to bring down one of those to resell the wood.

After her husband’s death, Tania never had another relationship with men. She still wears on her finger the wedding ring purchased in 1951. When I asked if she did not feel very alone, Tania argued that loneliness does not live in a heart in communion with the life. Also, I questioned why she kept visiting her husband after so long.

While she cleaned the grave with a piece of flannel, one of the simple ones of the graveyard, dedusting as if making caresses, she watched me with a candid smile and replied: “The human being who is not faithful to his promises can not be true to yourself. So how I do every month, I am here fulfilling my promise, not out of obligation, but because it invigorates my heart. Life is everywhere, in the earth entrails and in the uncertainties of the sky, and the cemetery is no different. I also see here the east, as well as the west. “

Written by David Arioch

October 11th, 2016 at 12:01 am

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