- HOUSE & GARDEN
- DOGS CATS & CO
- ART & PHOTOGRAPHY
Dying in the metropolis or the attempt to pay last respects to your Mother.
Mother passed away, my mother in law, which I called mother. I called my mother „mama“ and „mama“ belonged only to my mother. Now she passed away, today – Sunday – 10 minutes till 10 o`clock. I was just about to feed our homeless cats, crouching next to the feeding dish, stroking the black and white cat, enjoy- ing the first warm and sunny day, as the phone rang. Apparently my husband wants to make sure, my mobile is plugged in, he does this some times. „Mother died“, I asked him who died? – somehow I understood – on the other hand I didn`t. „Mother“ – Mother died. I watched the cats eating the rest of their food and walked back to the house – 100 meters – just about 100 times the thought of „mother died“. Mother would`ve turned 98 yrs. or 99 yrs. no one really knows for sure, that`s the way it is around here.
For over 2 yrs. she had to be taken care of but still could eat on her own and was mentally sane, she was up to date on all daily soaps. Just yesterday she was in good spirit and funny as her little great-grandson visited. We expected it somehow, but not just now. As I came home, Ferit sat stunned next to the phone. „We have to book a flight“ I said, „and Ali must come back.“ Our gardener just took off a day earlier for leave – he must come back to take care of our pets. There was no flight to Istanbul, all booked out, and tomorrow after mid- day-prayer the burial will take place already. Ali came back, we are driving to Izmir, we caught two seats on the evening flight. The 3 hours drive was spent in silence, I am not crying. Mother had a wonderful life, she was loved, adored and cared for and she died happy, if there is anything like „dying happy“. Yesterday my nephew – mother`s grandson and his young japanese wife – Yoshiko – returned to Turkey. That morning they visited mother, she looked at them and passed away, just like that.
The first time, in 35 years visiting Istanbul, we will be staying in a hotel. We always stayed with our parents, after Dad died, with Mother. A stay in a hotel, even secretly, was out of the question. Mother would have been sad and offended – and now we are entering the hotel.
All siblings, who were able to move out on the day of their wedding, had apartments close by. Just we were different, later on as we moved back to Germany. As I came to Istanbul about 35 yrs. ago, it was natural to rent two apartments next to each other, one for the parents and one for us. Everyday we had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the parent`s apartment. As a lovely and authoritarian family patriarch, Mother was the queen on an unreachable throne.
It snowed at the airport in Istanbul, I wanted to by flowers implicit. Actually there was a little stall next to a souvenir shop and I choose the least dying flowers. Unfortunately the culture of bringing flowers in Turkey
did not established yet. We brought our luggage to the hotel and drove through heavy snow flurry to mother`s apartment. All my husband`s siblings, some relatives and his friend sat in the living room and trank tea. It seemed like always, just mother was not in her seat. I wanted to see mother and to bring the flowers. She was lying on her bed in her bedroom and covered with a white linen-sheet. They layed her in her own bed, which she hated, she had not slept in it for the past two years because she was scared of dying. Since than she slept in her armchair and thought she would be safe there.
My laws, my husband and his little brother, about 1952
It was very cold in the room, she just layed there, a small person underneath a white sheet with a knife on her stomach. It looked like an ancient handmade knife, the wooden handle seemed real old, the small narrow bla- de showed headwards. I took the knife away and uncovered her head. Now the tears came, I wept over her, over the luck of painless and quiet dying, over passed possibilities of telling her that I love her, I cried over my Mom, her suffering and over myself. I prayed, actually I am not good at it, but maybe God has just time to listen. We arranged the flowers next to her, covered her back up and said our farewells. The terrible knife was replaced on her stomach.
I asked of the meaning, nobody really knew, it`s just a custom. I found out, the doctor – who is Ferit`s friend, arranged for it, meaning no allegedly bad gases arise. But had it be a knife??? Maybe the bouquet of flowers would have had the same effect, since it was heavier than the knife!
It was almost 3 a.m. as we returned to the hotel.
At 8 a.m. the next morning, the mortuary van arrived and mother was taken away in a temporary coffin for her washing at the Moschee. Some of my sisters in law escorted her, I didn`t want to come along. Normally the female relatives take over the last cleaning, but none of my sisters in law could conquer, so they passed it on to the professionals. Mother was wrapped into a 9 mtr., white sheet – around her head, her waist and beneath her feet, a green strap was tied. Tied up like this – mother was put in a lended coffin. Every Human is equal here, everyone – don`t matter if it is a beggar or a billionaire, each of them gets 9 mtr. Fabric and a lended coffin.
At that time we tried to get some flowers, which turned out not being easy. We drove spcifically close by mother`s apartment where Filiz, the chipsy, had a flower stall fort the past 10 years, she was our last hope. We arrived, jumped out of the car – the stall was still surrounded by plastic – and it was closed! Luckily we found a small flower shop in a side road and Ferit bought all the red roses there.
Meanwhile the coffin was positioned at the courtyard. It was covered with a green sheet, which had prayers stitched on in golden letters. The funeral guests finally arrived, except for Yoshiko, who held the airport-flo- wers tightly in her arm. What about me ? – nobody brought flowers for me. A lot of the funeral guests spent money to an organization for poor kids to provide a scholarship for school. The names of the donors were print onto a ribbon and positioned on a wall. I went to the coffin again and put my hands on the sheet, only the wood parted me from our bandaged mother and I cried. Men took circle around the coffin, women built the outside of the same. Only since 17 years women can be part of a burial, burials used to be men`s world, where women had no business to be. In our village it`s still custom – but some women just ignore it.
The Hodscha (islamic teacher for religion) prayed in Arabian language, of course I didn`t understand a word he said. I held on to my two bouquets of roses and watched the ceremony. Unfortunately even here are some people who had to make a phone call or had to check their E-mails – being 10 minutes without an smart pho- ne is absolutely impossible.
The prayers ended, the coffin was put into the funeral car, everyone raced for their cars just to be possibly early at the cemetery, which is 20 km away. The borough provided for a small bus to transfer some funeral guests, at no charge of course, just like everything else. Everyone really can afford to die. I squeezed myself including the roses into a car, no more space for Ferit, so he took a different car, we raced behind the funeral car onto the highway.
15 years ago the family had bought a grave site on a new built cemetery, far out of town. Back than there were no trees, no bushes, only fresh digged graves, where about 20 homeless kids lived behind the tombsto- nes in patched up plastic bag shacks.
The driver was in a hurry to get the coffin back, there was another deceased person waiting, where is everyo- ne? A tile was still missing, Ferit was not here yet – could you just wait? – the young man looked at me puzz- led. We entered the cemetery and drove under a alley of cypresses directly to the grave of our father. It was freezing, but the sky was blue and the sun shone through the trees. As we arrived a small group of funeral guests were present, the coffin was placed next to the excavated grave. Ferit`s two brothers stood inside and the Hodscha said some more prayers, Ferit and a lot of the funeral guests weren`t here yet. Where were they? I helt on tide to the roses, my nose oozed and I was afraid of the waifs, who hassled us already at Father`s buriel, we could not think straight at that time. Except for some young, unknown men, standing there with sho- vels behind the grave, there was no one insight.
Mother was lifted out of the coffin, several men tried to hold her but it was not easy. The two brothers stan- ding inside the grave tried to take her over and mother almost slipped away, I was scared she`d fall and could hardly look. I turned and saw the coffin was back on the vehicle driving on to the next corner. Mother lies on the freezing cold ground, the brothers could barely make it out of the grave, their pants and shoes were all muddy. Ferit still wasn`t here. One of the young unknown men started to put the concrete slabs at the lower end. At father`s funeral only wood panels were set up in roof shape.
One slab / tile was still missing, Ferit was still not here. „Wait, wait“ I said, the young man looked at me and at the other fellows, „wait“ I took all my roses, kissed them and placed them directly on mother`s little body. The last concrete slab was put on and Ferit wasn`t here yet. Immediately some male relatives started to sho- vel up the grave, the Hodscha still prayed. Ferit, his sister, her son and Yoshika came along, too late, they were terrified. The Hodscha moved on to the next funeral. A lot of souls stood at the door to paradise on that 5th. of January. The grave was shoveled up quickly, some of the unknown young men helped, they put back the rose bush which they `d digged out before. These young men, could they be the street kids, grown up in the meanwhile??
Yoshiko put down her flowers separately on the banked grave so we went back to our car. This whole action – you can not call a ceremony – didn`t last longer than 20 Minutes. Still funeral guests arrived – too late – I was very upset, to me it was just honorless. Here in the big city, there is no time to bury a beloved one with res- pect, it`s just endless sad.
Many of the funeral guests went home, other drove on to mother`s apartment, where neighbors and relatives brought by some food like tea and a traditional sweet semolina-dish (made from rice flour). Constantly new neighbors came in and all of them were entertained with food, some neighbors brought some more chairs. People sat everywhere even on the floor, mother`s „dying chair“ was also occupied, a human being sat there, actually breathing and talking, it was strange to me. Live goes on just like that. The kitchen was overloaded also, I was stuck on a little stool next to the toaster.
Siblings on Ferits 60th birthday 2007
In the afternoon another Hodscha came to sing the „Mevluet“ (Prayer) and give his blessings. He sat down in the living room at the dining table and started to sing. The conversation in the kitchen kept going, some made phone calls and the Hodscha kept singing. What was that???
Somehow I made it out of my corner and placed myself into the hallway, the chanting was beautiful. The tal- king and whispering went on in the kitchen, I was shocked. For the first time it crossed my mind, maybe it
was right not to let come women to funerals formerly. I couldn`t bring my thoughts to the end as I noticed
one of the men checked his mails and another one sent an SMS and somewhere the mobile rang and it was answered. The Hodscha just kept on singing, it seemed the Ladies ran out of conversation topics, it was a lot calmer. The Hodscha started to preach in Turkish language, finally I could understand something. He said, there`s only 3 things in life we should fulfill to be a good Human: A – Christian love and respectful contact with human fellows. B – to help others and be there for them and C – to fulfill our duties towards our family and live in peace with our fellow neighbor.
It was a wonderful prayer, I went to the Hodscha to give him my thanks for his wonderful speech, which has meanings in every Religion. Later on I found out the Hodscha studied economy, works in his profession and voluntarily works in little Moschees.
We sat together until midnight again. The two sisters in law wanted to stay for at least a week in mother`s house – so they wouldn`t offend her soul by leaving the house empty. I thought about funerals in our village, which are proceeded differently – dignified and respectful. The coffin would pass over each man`s head into their hands all the way to the cemetery – only about a mile away. Only a few women are present, the Hodscha sings his songs without haste and waits until the last funeral guest leaves the cemetery.
It was an emotional exhausting day and I wish for myself not to die in a big city in Turkey, or better yet, not to die at all for now.
Patriarch of the family at 3th January 2015
Patriarch of the family at 3th January 2015
by Isabella Bakioglu