As is custom in Greece my mother-in-law returned to her house in an open coffin to be visited and mourned for by us and her community. At the end of the day, she left the house and travelled in a hearse to the local church. The priest walked ahead of the hearse and we walked behind. We walked from the house my mother-in-law had built with her husband. The house in which she had raised her children and her grandchildren. We walked past the house of her sister next door – who died some years ago. Through the neighbourhood that was the fabric of her life. Through the sounds and smells and sights of her life. Along the street that she walked every day for many decades. A walk that maybe she didn’t even think about or notice anymore. An ordinary, mundane walk that today is poignant. On every lamp post we pass there is a poster announcing this funeral. Today it is the walk of our life. It is my mother-in-law’s final journey.
We walk together. We hold each other, hold hands, cry, talk quietly, walk silently. This is the family I have. The husband and daughters that only exist because of the life and love of this woman. We are grief stricken. In pain from the loss. And we are together, right now, connected and closer than ever. We walk with the ghosts of her husband and sisters and all the others we have lost. We are followed by the mourners. Neighbours, family and friends of my mother-in-law and the friends of her daughter and granddaughters. A friend of forty years. A family member delirious with grief. People she saw this week and people she hadn’t seen for many years. People who lived nearby and people who had travelled many, many miles. Tens of people in black and dark clothes. We are intimately and silently connected, united and together.
We walk slowly. The traffic stops. Passersby cross themselves. These strangers are connected to us too. For this walk they feel what we feel and are with us. There is no rushing or pushing. We arrive at the church where there is another crowd of mourners. The church bells ring to signal my mother-in-law’s arrival. The walkers become a congregation. Our world has stopped and everything has changed but we are walking. Walking through our grief. We will have to keep walking but we will do it together. Step-by-step. The walk of our lives.