Cemeteries and churchyards

“No, they just have simple crosses,” he explains.

Even though I spend the next few minutes trying to dispel this myth, it is to no avail.

“No, we have graves like these,” I say, continuing, “but most are not quite so elaborate.” I’m talking about “in the UK”, of course. But he’s seen the films. He knows how they are.

“Yes, they are more simple.” He tells his cousin we have simple crosses.

Eventually, I give up. It’s not really important anyway.

The cemetery is huge. I mean really huge. Stretching out in all directions. I think: you could get lost in here. But, as with all churchyards and cemeteries, it has a kind of peace and tranquility that I like.

I still find Italian cemeteries strange. Italians (a lot of them) live in flats. When they die, a lot of them seem to be interred (rather than buried) in a flat equivalent. Blocks of tombs, stacked up to 4 high with, maybe, another 4 on top. They look similar to blocks of flats. These blocks surround, what I would call, normal graves – as in, plots where people are buried in the ground.

Most burials/interments have a “headstone” on which there is a photograph. I ask F if it’s normal to have a photograph on the gravestone. F says that it is. For people that they know, they touch the photograph and then bring the fingers to the lips in a sort of kiss, sometimes followed with a crossing (as Catholics do in church). I explain to F that we just don’t do the photograph thing (or, rather, we didn’t – but I don’t live there any more).

He explains to his cousin that our burial places are around the church. They (Italians) never do this. I try to explain that we, too, have cemeteries in addition to graveyards. Again, it falls on deaf ears. They talk about the fact that they would like their ashes to be scattered. I ask if it’s legal to do that here. Apparently not but F would like his scattered on the sea anyway.

We’re visiting the place where his Aunt was buried the other week. With his cousin and uncle. F spots graves/tombs where the person lived to 100. Apparently, F’s uncle says that “she should have lived to be 100.” He doesn’t show emotion. It’s these little things that show how much he misses her. It makes you really feel for him. Of course, they are all suffering. It’s the living who suffer after someone dies, after all. They’re the ones who are left behind; who have to continue with life.

The next day, we go round to the uncle’s place for lunch. F says it will be strange without her. And it was. I could picture her sitting at the table in her usual place (when we went round) and she’s not even my aunt – so I guess it’s really hard for all of them. She was/is missed. After the lunch, whilst they are cleaning up, there is a discussion between the uncle and the cousin. The cousin wants him to come to her house for lunch the next day. Because of her husband’s work, they eat at 12.30. The uncle says he doesn’t want to come and he will eat here because a) he can eat when he wants and b) because he can “talk” to his wife. She thinks this is stupid. F doesn’t really agree and tells her. I don’t really agree either – but it was only explained to me after we had left.

Still, I understand the uncle. She hasn’t left the house yet. That takes time. She may not be physically present but she is a presence, still, within that house. You feel like, at any moment, she could walk through from the kitchen. He’s trying to keep everything exactly the same as it was when she was there. I think I would do the same. Although, I’m not sure I would be as good at it as he is.

F’s cousin worries about the food. She doesn’t think she is so good as her mum. Her Dad said, the other day, that she was just as good. It’s different, but she is.

She really wanted F to come down and you could tell that she was really happy that he was there. But this is quite stressful for F. We don’t normally go down between the end of September and April. They ask, as we leave, when we’ll be back. F doesn’t want to commit. It’s a pressure on him. It stresses him out. He says we won’t be back next weekend for sure as he wants to finish the house. Which is another pressure on him. Of course, this is really “made up” pressure – but I’ve been there and I know what this is like.

When we arrive home, around half six, he says he’s tired and he has had a headache since the previous day. I tell him to go and lie down and not to worry as I’ll do the washing. After all, it was no rest or relaxation for him, going down. He goes to lie down and, within half an hour, he’s asleep. He sleeps almost all the way through until I get up – nearly 12 hours. That’s how I know how difficult this weekend has been for him.

Still, the carpenter is coming tomorrow to do stuff in the flat (fit new cupboards, put up rails, etc.) We’re getting there, slowly. F is going to IKEA today to get some more stuff. He will be happier when the flat is in better order, for sure.

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