Between two worlds
I have always found it painful to visit the cemetery on the Day of the Dead (or on any other occasion, for that matter). Strangely enough, since I have kids, it has got easier. They make it easier for me. Like this year, for example. My eldest asked me the evening before the visit: ‘Mum, do we only take candles and flowers to the cemetery? Or can I make drawings?’ He’s not a little kid, he’s eleven, but he had never asked this before. But he cares deeply about the relatives he could never meet. ‘Sure you can. We’ll put them on the graves.’ He set out to work, drawing crosses and candles, writing names and dates and finishing with lines like ‘Rest in Peace, my dear great-grandfather’. We rolled out the family tree on the kitchen table and talked about family members alive and departed.
The next day, in the wonderful sunshine the boys were searching for names they remembered from the family tree in the small cemetery of the little village where my husband’s family partly comes from. Then we went on to two other graveyards, the last of them quite big, but still nice with the candles’ flickering light in the dark afternoon. I felt thankful all along that our loved ones rest in these beautiful places. I took the kids, as usual, to my sorely-missed granddad and the grammar school friend who found it impossible to battle the demons of depression any more. ‘Was he only 21?’ they asked in disbelief. I always tell them that he was so ill he couldn’t be helped. One day I will tell them what his illness was. ‘She loved cooking,’ I told my middle son when we stood at the grave of one of my great-grandmothers, and a broad smile appeared on his face. He loves eating. He can now connect to this long-lost woman, whom even I only know from family tales.
It didn’t feel that painful this year. It felt more like a family outing – to the border of two worlds.
Practical information: The small village is Vérteskozma, about 70 kilometers from Budapest. It has one street and a few dozen houses, all of them in traditional style. You can go hiking in the hills surrounding the village.