Days of Mourning
There’s a lot of sad going around lately. There’s the Xocalı tragedy, of course, but there’s also the one-year anniversary of my deceased host-father. Last year, on February 27th, he died. I obviously didn’t know him, but I hear great things. He also managed to turn out an awesome family. Life would be less good here without having gotten to know Mir Bağır, Nayıl, and their mother.
This isn’t really about that, though. What we’ve been noticing around here is that they treat death very differently than what us Americans are used to. In the first place, once someone dies, within the first few days a funeral service is planned. That funeral (yas) is a three-day event, usually in a big blue tent. And that tent can go anywhere. It’s not uncommon to see the big blue tent blocking main roads. Everyone just goes around them. Then after 40 days, another service is planned, and finally the third and final event takes place on the one-year anniversary of the death.
Inside the tent, the men sit and chat, drinking tea and eating. The women are generally in a separate place, inside the home where they can do their own namasz prayers and mourn in their own way. I’m not sure what else happens at the women’s part of the event, but for the men, a mullah arrives and repeats words from the Koran and gives a sermon of sorts. Explained to me by my host brother, the separation of men and women is just how Muslims do it, much like the genders are separated for prayer at the mosque, they are also separated at funeral-type services. It also used to be the case for weddings, but that has since changed.
A few things we’ve noticed: Death requires a lot of energy from the family. My host mom spent the whole last two weeks cleaning everything in our house and yard, repainting things to look a little better, and preparing for the arrival of many guests. One day before the event, host mom and six or seven other women spent the day preparing food. They must have had more than 20 chickens ready to go, and lots more plov and qatıq (like yogurt). They probably had more chickens than that. But that’s what I saw. This is much different–In America, if we all get together, usually it’s on the guests to bring food for the mourning family, right? My host mom thinks this is a much better idea, and that they should adopt it here.