Thank you all for your messages of sympathy on this blog, Facebook, though emails and other means over the last week. This photo is of my dear mother-in-law about 25 years ago: this is the lady who was my dear friend and best buddy and constant moral supporter.
I’m afraid I may have startled a few of you with the “pirate” picture with her death announcement last week – but one very good friend said it made her laugh! That was what I hoped for, because Beamer (Doris) was such a lively, festive woman until age overtook her.
Anyway, the photos this week are mostly of the funeral – which is quite different from the Fijian and Indian funerals.
As with all non-cremating funerals, it starts with digging the grave. Austin had already checked, and it is permissible to bury on our own land, so Akka, Junia and two manly-men house guests all took their turns breaking through the soapstone at the top of the hill up by “pineapple circle.”
In a departure from common practice in Fiji, we built our own casket. The reason is that caskets here are made out of plywood, and Austin felt that even “marine ply” was just not strong enough or good enough. Several years ago he bought planks of very fine native hardwood – vesi – which we have been saving until the need arose.
What a learning curve! We figured it would take Rakesh and Junia a few hours to make the coffin. IT TOOK TWELVE HOURS !!! The wood was so hard it was hard to get the screws in. Erstwhile helpful souls would drop by with suggestions (“not Dad,” Junia assured me) – and this slowed them down a whole lot. The delay in the coffin ended up causing a delay in the funeral – rescheduled from 10 am to 3 pm. It was such a small funeral, the word got around with a few phone calls, and no one showed up early.
When the coffin was finished, Austin oiled it with Orange and Cinnamon essential oils. Another odd fact about this coffin is that there were no nails or screws for the top. The lid was so heavy and the way the structure slats fit together, the top was not going to shift or move. Junia said the coffin was about 2x the weight of the occupant.
In case you are curious we padded the bottom with an old mattress and her favorite blanket.
Monica and her aunty decorated the porch of our house.
We found a number of good photos of Beamer to put out.
And one friend made a beautiful salusalu (lei) that is on her photo at this point, but framed her face later when the body was brought home.
About 2:30 the guests started arriving. I discovered after the funeral that I had only taken this one photo of the guests before most people arrived. The children in green uniforms are from the nearby school – they had been sent to express condolences to Austin in gratitude for all he had done for the school. We were not expecting this, because we were planning it only for the folks in the community who really knew Beamer and really wanted to say a last goodbye, but the children added a festive and very local touch to the occasion and we were happy to have them here.
But – dear God in heaven – Austin could not get the body from the morgue! I had sent only one paper with him instead of the 3 papers that were required. The van driver who brought the children kindly drove to town with the papers for Austin. My boo-boo resulted in another one hour delay. Fiji time, Fiji time.
We had a brief memorial service on the porch, and then carried the coffin to the top of the hill for the final prayer before burial.
The grave was then closed and decorated. You see Austin with the comupter? Family in the US attended by Skype.
Later this week I was walking down the hill on that property and could look up to see the grave by our prayer benches. It is a lovely spot, and I think Beamer is very happy to have her bones resting there.
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One flora/fauna photo ….
Akka called me to come take a photo of this wild gecko baby he found in the roots of an orchid on the mango tree. Life goes on …. even unexpected kinds of life!
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