It’s our last chance to give him anything

Emílie HoráckováMimon3 July 2000
I wake up at five a.m. to the insistent ringing of my alarm clock. I light a cigarette and think about a lot of things. Then I drink a cup of coffee, and that helps me get going. I won’t be going to school today as usual. I have to attend the funeral of my husband’s uncle.
If I want to make the six o’clock bus to Prague I’d better hurry up. It’s still dark and foggy by the time I’m outside, and I’m worried that it might start raining. My daughter Emílie is coming with me. The bus picks us up at six o’clock on the dot, and before we know it we’re on our way. On the bus we talk about everything except the funeral. The ride is over too soon. The sun is coming out but our hearts are heavy.
We go straight to Klára, my uncle’s widow. It seems as if her life has stopped; she is confused and weak with grief. The dead man’s name was Josef but everyone called him Cucu.
The house is teaming with friends and family. That’s the Romany way: when something like this happens, people come from every corner of our country and even from abroad. We all love each other dearly and try to show respect. People guard the body until the funeral. And they pay their homage to the deceased by reminiscing and remembering his good qualities.
This is the time to reflect and to re-examine one’s values. You realize that money and material goods are not the most important things in life.
People are on their best behavior. Some cry, some share their feelings with others, and some listen quietly.
Many relatives here haven’t seen each other for years and are happy to be together in spite of the sad occasion. They enjoy talking and filling each other in on what’s been going on in their lives. They find out how everyone is and what people who don’t like Roma have done.
Then it’s time to accompany our loved one on his last journey. The sun is standing high in the noon sky. I watch my people and their eyes, red from crying. Everyone walks slowly to show respect for the deceased. We keep our heads down so that other people won’t see the sadness of the Roma. It is the sadness of not having been able to give what you wanted to while the person was still alive.
Like Romany life, Romany behavior is full of ups and downs.
There is loud lamenting: "Why are you taking my brother, my husband, my brother-in-law, my friend?”
“Some woman’s fainted.”
“That’s his sister!”
We take turns by the grave, throw in a handful of soil, a flower and then say good-bye to this person who will remain in our hearts. All eyes are filled with tears and the graveyard is filled with Roma.
Suddenly a lady who has survived her own lovely daughter turns to me and says, “What a beautiful funeral this has been!”
That stops me in my tracks. I feel that I have to talk with her. I say, ” It’s never beautiful for a man to die, especially someone so young. What good is a beautiful funeral?”
But we Roma try to make the last journey as pleasant as possible for the deceased because we know that Romany life is nothing but worries and scarcity. That’s why we give such a beautiful journey to the deceased; it’s our last chance to give him anything. That’s why people need to be there for each other in moments of pain and suffering. They need to support each another while they’re still alive. After the funeral there is a party back at the widow’s house. I say my good-byes and we start out for home. Life goes on but we live with hearts full of pain. We remember good people and never forget the mean ones. A good person has gone forever. It’s a nice April day.

No Responses to “It’s our last chance to give him anything”

  1. It’s wonderful to read about Romanies in other countries, how we’re so similar and yet so different. It’s a very moving story.

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