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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Funeral

The other day I was driving in Santa Ana after watching the boy at his swimming lesson and I was held up by a funeral procession. It was a thought provoking incident, for more than one reason.

First, let me explain what I saw. Then I will discuss why there are no pictures.

There was an old station wagon. Not a hearse, not even a black car. Something that looked like my Mom's family mobile from the 70's. It was beige with faux wood paneling. It had a bouquet of flowers on the top. It was driving about 5-10 miles/hour.

Behind were about fifty people walking. Some were very old and walking with a hobble. Some had umbrellas to protect them from the sun. Directly behind the car was a smaller group that must have been immediate family. I don't know how far this group had walked or were going to walk. Again I felt it a little like the Godfather. And I felt like an intruder.

I snapped a couple of photos and then felt like I was violating their experience, their privacy and their grief. I still have the photos, but I am not going to share them. I understand that there is a blur between blogger and journalist. I understand that people in public have very little right to privacy from photographers. But I am not yet ready to cross that line. So instead I will use my words to express myself.

This procession seemed straight from the movies. But it also felt more real and honest than the typical U.S. version. Somehow, it seems to me that walking in this group did many things for the mourners.

It seemed to show a collective grief, each person part of a greater whole. It seemed a testimonial of love to the deceased, that these people, even those somewhat infirm, would make this effort, do this act. It seemed to provide a sense of support and recognition for the immediate family. They were in the front, the closest to the dead, yet they were backed by this group of supporters, who would not let them fall behind. It also seemed very public, look everyone, look at what we have lost. In the US, we all get in cars and drive to the next stop, but these people journeyed with the dead to their last earthly destination. How connected. And this work, this walk, was a physical task to mingle with the emotional aspect of letting go.

I am not sure where the procession went after they passed me. I am not sure what a typical funeral is in Costa Rica. What is universal is the grief. It is always hard. In some ways seeing this procession made me think of my own mortality and my own family. In some ways it reminded me that I need to participate and not just observe the life I see. I feel a better person for this moment of introspection.

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