Fairly early this morning I found out that my cousin’s husband had passed away and that the funeral will be later today. He had passed away very early in the morning and traditionally in Egypt people get buried the same day they pass away. There were a lot of arrangements to make, but finally we were told that the funeral will take place at 2 pm in a church at the other end of town from where I live. This being a Monday I knew that we would be facing a big challenge with traffic, but it could not be helped. My cousin is very close and that was her husband of forty years, so I needed to go. I could not stay away. To say that I was apprehensive would be putting it mildly.
On the way there I stopped and picked up a couple of cousins and we started on our journey. As anticipated traffic was rather bad, but not impossible. We arrived at the church, after a slight detour, only ten minutes late.
It is a very old, very beautiful church all panelled with dark wood.
The benches upholstered in dark red velvet, the colour reflected in the carpets covering every inch of the marble floor. Many pictures covered the walls, all painted in the Coptic style, a very distinctive style.
The church was dim, which was a relief after the glare of the sun outside. The weather was unusually warm for this time of the year.
The chanting of the priest, the soft light in the church and the smell of incense all had a combined effect of transporting me from this hectic world outside into a world of peace and beauty. The priest was very soft spoken and delivered a spiritual eulogy.
Twenty minutes later we were out of the church on our way to the cemetery.
Here in Egypt Christian cemeteries are built in enclosed areas and are usually attached to an old church.
This one was no exception. It was like a small village, with narrow streets and on both sides are one storey edifices housing the deceased of each family.
These are usually made up of a large room that has access to a basement. This latter houses the coffins of all the deceased members of that family.
The beauty of these cemeteries lies in the lovely architecture of the different crypts. Also the sense of ethereal peace found there comes from the quiet and the greenery found everywhere.
Once we arrived at the cemetery we all walked a very short distance to the family crypt where the beloved husband of my cousin, and father of two devoted daughters was interred. It was a very simple ceremony and a spontaneous prayer was chanted by the mourners as the body was being interred.
All day I was apprehensive of the effect this funeral would have on me. We tend to rake up all our old grief when witnessing new grief. But all I felt was a strange kind of very, very sad peace. He was a very good man, devoted to his religion, his family and his community. He was deeply loved and respected. I could feel his immediate family’s deep grief, but it was tempered with a very strong faith.
Leaving the cemetery we retraced our steps to the main door, and again I had that deep sense of peace. My dreaded ordeal turned out to be a beautiful, calming experience that solidified my faith in an ever loving, ever present God.
It was then time to brave traffic again on the journey home. Traffic was just as bad as expected and it took longer than anticipated to get back home. I was physically exhausted but a strange peace lingered on with me all evening. We lost a good man, but somehow the feeling is that he was still there, peaceful, loving, hovering above us all, keeping us all calm.
Though the thought crossed my mind that all the older generation have all gone and we are now starting on my generation, yet there was no anxiety or fear, only calm acceptance and peace. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
15 February 2016