3.26.2013

My First Muslim Funeral

On Friday I haiku'd about having a pedicure scheduled for Saturday but shortly after I posted that, Husband called to inform me our neighbor had come over to let him know her father died. Because our neighbors are Muslim, they bury their dead as soon as humanly possible. There is no embalming process so things need to be done right away. He had died sometime either Thursday night or Friday morning and the funeral would be held on Saturday at 3.
Why was I going to my Muslim neighbor's funeral you might be asking. Well, my parents lived in the house I live in now when I was just a baby. Shortly after that, they moved my grandparents in and they lived there for another 30 years. I have known Ismet and Suleyman since I was a wee girl and since they never had grandchildren of their own, they fell in love with my brother and me. I remember they had a long haired dog named Fluffy or Fuzzy who always wore a barrette and I thought she was the best dog ever. They were always out front working on their meticulous lawn and never hesitated to smile and wave whenever we saw them.
Their daughter, Suki, moved in with Suleyman when Ismet went blind and started falling into dementia. After her mother passed, she stayed on and took care of Suleyman until he died last weekend due to internal bleeding and a series of strokes. As if her hands weren't full enough already with her own parents, she always made time to check in on my grandparents as they grew older and my grandfather's health began to fail. When I moved in with my family, Suki always made a point to wave as she drove by or to come by with extra fruit or vegetables from their garden. That family is really one of the nicest on our block and we're really lucky to have them as our neighbors so it was the right thing for my family to attend the funeral for Suki.
So I attended the funeral and women were required to wear a headscarf which is something I have never done but did out of respect for the dead. We were ushered into a room where there was a stainless steel table in front upon which Suleyman was lying, shrouded in a sheet from his feet to his neck, head exposed. This is the first time I have ever seen a dead person but he really did look like he was sleeping and frankly looked about the same as when I saw him getting the mail only a week ago. After viewing the body and paying respects, the woman were escorted to one side of the room, the men to the other. Suleyman's head was covered, a grate was placed over the body and an embroidered blanket was laid across the grate. A gentleman who I am assuming was some sort of prayer leader said some nice words in English and what I assume was Arabic.
The body was then driven to the burial site. The women were asked to stay well behind the men as we all walked behind it. The body was lowered into the grave only shrouded in the sheet, no coffin. Only the men were allowed to surround the grave. Then, a couple of the men took a ladder down to turn Suleyman's body toward Mecca. They climbed out and a concrete cover was placed upon the body as is required by California law. The men took turns throwing dirt into the grave then moved away and turned their backs to allow the "sisters" to do the same. It was my first time at an actual burial service and I have to say it was all very civilized and very fast. I'd be surprised if the whole thing lasted an hour. After the Bar Mitzvah a week prior, I'm feeling very cultured lately. Easter's got nothing on these two events.

2 comments:

Coodence said...

That really was a good story! I'm sorry you lost your neighbor. Seems like a very nice fam.

Jody Blake said...

I can see that you were very close to their family and I'm sorry for their loss. Indeed, it is Muslim tradition to bury their loved ones as soon as possible. Funerals are always filled with grief and sadness, but it's also an event to celebrate one's life and how he lived it to the fullest. Thanks for sharing. Again I give my condolence to the family.

Jody Blake @ Fred Hunters