43rd Thread: Farewell, my dead daughter
My grandmother replied:
– No, no, we should not lay her straight and stiff like a stick. She must sleep on her side, with her legs pressed against her chest. In her left hand, her bowl, in her right hand, her shuttle.
– If you do not bury her like a Christian, I will not pray for the salvation of her soul.
– She lived as a Christian and so do I. Neither my parents nor my grandparents had their bodies turned to ashes, we are civilized. I will continue to attend your masses with my grandchildren and to make donations to your church out of gratitude for your services, Lord Priest.
– Fine. As long as we position her head towards the holy land.
– Certainly, my lord, as you wish.
But I wept, and wept. My mother lay still, her skin white, her eyes closed, a strip around the chin. She would never see me again, she would never hear my voice. I was cut off from myself.
– Yes, dear, she will hear you, and you too will hear her when she comes to comfort you at night, said my grandmother. Lord Priest, you have to lay her on her side with the baby cuddled against her navel. She will go back to rocking inside the belly of our mother the earth, warm and dark and damp, from which all life comes.
– Life comes from god.
The priest who was heavyset and tattered tried to look stern. I think he was afraid of my grandmother who, feisty as a fly, waved around her bundle of herbs and her holy rosary.
– Of course, she replied, life in the earth comes from god too.
My father was standing behind the priest, cap in hand, ready to bury the body as instructed.
I could not stop crying. My mother was lying on the table where she had served us food day after day as if we were supposed to eat her. I laid my head on her familiar chest.
– Mother, take me in your arms, kiss my eyes, stroke my hair as you have always done.
– Hush, little girl, do not hurt her. She must rest, as the earth gets ready to welcome her. She will never be hungry again, nor cold, she will never be alone. And when the time comes, she will rise from the ground back to life.
– Yes, interrupted the priest, at the last judgment, god will…
– Come into my arms, my darling, come. I will cuddle you, I will sing you songs, I will try to be your mother. Will you let me? Lord Priest, if you do not let her curl up in a ball, the belly of the earth mother will reject her. Has a baby ever floated straight as a soldier inside the body of her mother? Does a baby ever come out straight as a soldier from his mother’s body? He would tear her flesh, instead of curling skin to skin, love to love. Farewell, my dear daughter, you have deserved your sweet, second birth to the world.