Dana Mladin

Merry Christmas (may hit you) from all perspectives!

Some years ago, going to the cemetery on December 25th, three months after the death of my sister, the people there greeted us serenely, with “Merry Christmas!” I found the greeting so… absurd in that context of suffering, that I didn’t know what to answer! And I still do not know today.

Starting from that moment, I learned to say “Have a quiet Christmas”, “a beautiful one”, “a rich Christmas” and so on, rather than “happy”. Because you don’t know how such a beautiful word can, paradoxically, open some deep wounds.

For someone who has lost their child, for someone who has been abandoned, for someone who is ill, for someone who has been fired from work, for someone who fails to have children, for someone who has buried their parent, there is no “Merry Christmas”…

“John, come, the dead man is at the back gate!” a woman shouts at the gate of the cemetery.

Now I don’t find anything strange anymore, nothing is scary anymore.

Before, I wouldn’t have entered a cemetery for anything in the world. I missed funerals, avoided living close to a cemetery in the neighborhood, even refused to listen to the stories related to them. I just couldn’t.

For 11 years, each and every weekend, I go to the cemetery. First, I went there for my sister, and since almost two years ago, for my father too. But also for other relatives of ours. It became kind of a reflex gesture… Abnormally so, as a psychologist told me. And I can believe that, considering that very few (always the same) people come to the cemetery like us, being present there each and every weekend. Or, to quote my mother, “we do our duty”.

But how can you tell your parents not to go weekly to their child’s grave? For them, that would have meant abandonment…

I became a specialist in types of candles, lanterns and matches, in cutting plastic bottles (made vases for the flowers) or in scrapping melted wax.

In the last 11 years, I have become good friends with all the dogs in the cemetery. Generation after generation…

I know the people of the cemetery like the neighbors from my block of flats. I am no longer surprised that some are drunk from the first hour, no matter if outside there are 40 degrees C or it is freezing cold.

I greet with the grave-diggers, talk about health and cats with the woman who helps with the funerals, I get angry when something that we have taken there, disappears – from flowers, pots and vases, to angels or icons.

I try to see the amusing side of some people shouting their love on a grave. A romantic place, what can I say…

I read the names on the crosses of the new tombs and I think how many people must be suffering after losing them.

It is impossible for me to think that down there are my dearest people… I’d rather think of them looking up, to the skies. And I ask myself a million questions…

I hear my mother talking to them. I tried in vain to stop her from doing this. I understand that many keep this “connection” with the missing.

Twice a year, the cemetery becomes very populated. On Easter Day and on Christmas Day, you can barely park your car, and the graveyard alleys become very much alive…

At the entrance you are greeted by beggars of all kinds and ages, and in the alleys, some women sell the flowers and fir wreaths.

The graves get “colored” with all kinds of flowers, branches, wreaths, lights. The new people ask where they can get water for the flowers.

We are in the 21st century and yet, at the limits of an European capital, we take water out from the well…

For me it’s a nice thing, because it reminds me of my childhood vacations in the country. And the cold and good water!

I like to see that, at least twice a year, the dead are no longer alone.

“Merry Christmas!” – I hear. Like every year during this period. I smile bitterly. May it be a merry one, so help us God!

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