29 March 2011

Pavel's Funeral

There are many traditions and celebrations in Moldova that I am more than happy and willing to participate in, such as weddings, baptisms, New Years, Easter, etc. But there was one that, while I was curious about it, I never actually wanted to see it.... and that's a funeral. I knew funerals are done different here than they are done in America so my curiousity got the best of me so much so that when I would see one happening (there were over 20 in our village this winter) I would stop and watch... until they would move locations and then I would let them be. After all, I didn't know the person so I felt like it was an intrusion on their privacy to be observing (this may not be the case, but it is how I felt). I also knew that if I were to participate in the "activities" of a funeral here in Moldova it would be because I knew the person that died. Unfortunately Pavel passed but fortunately Maria asked me to document the ceremony which meant I got to take part in it as if I was a part of the family. It was such an honor and a blessing, although he really is dearly missed by all.

Maria says on Friday night they went to bed as usual.... they watched some TV, then she wasn't feeling well so she took some medicine and laid down. He gave her a kiss and then he went to his bed (I have found that most couples sleep apart here) with his glasses and his newspaper to read before he fell asleep. When she woke up in the morning around 5, he was breathing deeply but she didn't think much of it. She just let him sleep. Usually he wakes up around 6 to begin the morning chores, so she was surprised when he wasn't awake at 10 past 7. She went to him to wake him up but when she got there she had found that he was not breathing and that he had died. I'm not sure exactly what happened between then and the funeral but I can tell you what someone told me.

Apparently after a person dies, someone remains by the body 24 hours a day. They seem to have a similar embalming process like we do in America, but I am not totally sure. The family then calls people in the village and family that doesn't live in the village and slowly people arrive at the house (where the body remains... in his/her Sunday best). People arrive to give their sympathies, and they are served with small snacks and wine. Then the day comes for the funeral (which is usually one or two days after the death). Watch the below video to see pictures... and the captions will tell you a little more.

On a side note: While this may have been a very difficult event, something truly positive came out of it. I had spent the weekend in Chisinau and when I left Varatic on Friday, it was about 60 degrees and sunny. I'd looked up the weather and saw snow was predicted for Sunday, but I didn't think much of it because I knew I wouldn't be outside much and my house is only two stops from where the rutiera drops me off... so I didn't bring anything other than the dress, tights, cowboy boots, and light-ish jacket I was wearing (and a couple of "cute" tops to make it look like I wasn't still wearing the same thing. Oh boy has Moldova changed me). I definitely was not expecting a funeral, nor to be asked to take pictures for it. Luckily I had my camera with me but no layers for clothes. I toughed it out because I knew it was more important for me to be there for Maria than for me to be warm... and the time I was going to arrive in my village was cutting it close to the beginning of the ceremony. So needless to say I was freezing throughout the entire 5 hours of everything. When we got to the cemetery, my host mom came up behind me, wrapped her arms around my waist, and held me tight so I could stay warm. It was such a great feeling... I felt comfortable in her arms and definitely much warmer (go body heat!). While our relationship has definitely had many moments where it's taken a turn for the better, I think this was the moment that officially turned it all around. I like her. In fact, I like her a lot. It's taken awhile to break the shell but I'm pretty sure it's officially broken and we have each other figured out pretty well. I think I'm going to really enjoy the next 14-ish months of my experience here.


  1. I am speechless Cate. That was such a beautiful video you made and I am sure Maria is very thankful to have someone so talented as you to document this process, even though it may be a sad one.

  2. wow! This is a really moving post. You did a fantastic job with the pictures they really communicate everything that is happening. <3

  3. Wow. ...My words cannot express the power of this. You done a wonderful thing. You took a difficult time and made it into something beautiful and something they will want to watch later on. You have got a God gifted talent.