“Cast a cold Eye/On Life, on Death.”— William Butler Yeats
In over eight years living abroad I’ve lost two uncles, a grandmother and an aunt, in addition to many acquaintances. I didn’t make it home to any funeral.
For people like me there may be no choice but to heed that Dublin poet’s cold-eyed epitaph. At some point the long-term expat must face death. It could be an acquaintance, celebrity, or worst of all, friend or family member. Whatever the degree of closeness, we become aware that home has diminished; the web of friendship centered on the deceased has lost its node.
I didn’t make it to the funerals but I attended anyway.
I followed the rites, watched the coffin close, followed the removal to the church, the funeral mass the following day and finally the burial. I shed tears with the family and dropped a rose onto the coffin six foot under. I witnessed the family reunions that any funeral becomes; sandwich in one hand, pint or cup of tea in the other.
The Turkish tradition of quick burial seems rushed, there’s barely time for the body to cool. Sensible in the hot climates where Islam was born, but to someone from a culture with a wake it leaves too little time to adjust, too little time to say goodbye.
And what about when the ritual isn’t followed? What then?
This death-at-a-distance wraps me in a cocoon.
I realize how selfish my sheltered grieving is. I am not there to help, to search, to listen, to share, to support. I am not there.
How do you cope with death-at-a-distance?
In loving memory of Brecan Mooney 1978-2009.
Catherine Yiğit is a native of Dublin, Ireland and writes from Çanakkale, northwestern Turkey where she lives with her Turkish husband and two children.