Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Yesterday was the funeral of Satya’s American grandmother.  Vera was his brother’s next door neighbor and had been a friend of his family for years.  When Satya came to the U.S., Vera welcomed him to the neighborhood.  Vera and her husband took Satya’s parents on a tour of the town and especially showed them the Indian business area with the Indian grocery stores and restaurants.  Vera would visit with his parents and keep them company.  In later years, Satya would take Vera to some of her appointments and then they would go out to eat together.  Sometimes they would just have cake and hot chocolate in Vera’s kitchen. 


I met Vera last fall when Satya and I began dating.  She was the first close friend of his that I met.  We had snacks and hot chocolate in her kitchen.  Vera was an elderly Italian lady.  She was born in a tough Italian-American neighborhood and braved some disapproval when she married an Irish-American.  She loved to go shopping and Satya says she took great pride in her appearance.  She was always welcoming, friendly, and cheerful even as cancer took over her body.  Even when we visited her in the hospital last week she kept those qualities.  She was able to remember small details about us and still cared about what was happening in our lives. Vera proudly introduced Satya to her caregivers in the hospital saying, “he is like my grandson.”  I’m sad I won’t get the chance to know her better.  We have some regrets-that after Satya married me and moved over an hour away that we didn’t visit her more often or that we never invited her to come to see our apartment.  That is how it always is though, isn’t it?  There never is enough time.


I think Satya’s family and Vera got along so well because they both had the same ideas about friendship and neighborliness.  Satya says that when he was growing up, people would just stop by whenever they wanted and have a friendly chat together.  Today in the U.S. that attitude exists in some areas, but sadly not all.  In India too, he thinks that attitude is changing.  Satya thinks it is due to tv.  He and his sister think that kids today are exposed to too much tv and so they’d rather watch tv than interact with the people who drop by. 



After the funeral, Satya said that according to tradition we had to wash all our clothes and take a shower.  This even meant going to a dry cleaner’s, dropping off our winter coats, and then rushing back to the car in the midst of a cold, windy day.  He says he thinks this tradition came to be as a way of preventing the spread of disease.  Now I guess it is a way to brush off the sadness of a funeral and not carry it around??  Has anybody else heard of this tradition?


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. La Vida Loca
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 02:32:32

    I am sorry for your loss. Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

    oh yeah. My family follows that. I believe it is coz dead bodies carry many many germs. It was a way of not bringing bacteria in the house. Remember back in the day people died of infectious diseases a lot.


    The disease/germ factor makes sense. We didn’t clean our shoes or jewelry, but everything else got either dry cleaned or tossed into the washer and dryer.


  2. snippetsnscribbles
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 17:25:58

    First off, I am very sorry for your loss, Minnie.

    I agree with LVL and Satya on taking a bath right after funeral and washing clothes. I think there is also a cultural take on why one has to take a bath after such a thing. I tried Googling it but could not find anything. Thanks to you, I am now learning more about our customs and trying to question.


  3. snippetsnscribbles
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 04:35:27

    I had to come back and comment again, Minnie.

    I was talking to G about this and was telling him how we do not, sometimes, question our own customs and blindly follow it!

    He also said the same thing about taking a bath right after a funeral. Earlier, the graveyards usually used to be way outside the towns and villages since they were not considered good and they were usually surrounded by trees, shrubs and (hence) lot of dirt and filth. Such being the case, going for a funeral meant braving all of it. Hence, to avoid getting infected by strange plants and insects, everyone that went for the funeral would come back and take a bath.
    He also quoted that even to this day, some of us do not cut our nails in the evenings or nights. We all think that it is against ‘some’ custom whereas it ‘could’ actually be because of some very practical reasons that were valid and true during earlier days. Because of lack of lights, cutting nails in the evening would mean getting hurt and the nails flying all over in the dark and hence people would have not cut their nails in the evenings. However, some of us follow it even today thinking it is some custom :)) Funny but just goes to say how much we need to actually understand our own customs and rituals 🙂

    PS:This could be entirely false too, dont quote me :))

    I didn’t know that about cutting nails at night! Satya agrees though-he had an aunt who followed that very closely and he gave the same reason you and G gave.

    For traditions my current philosophy is that I’ll try to follow some if they are important to Satya and if they seem ‘doable’. Washing clothes and taking a shower after a funeral does make a certain amount of sense. I will probably cut my nails whatever time of day it is : )

    Thanks for the comment. I enjoy learning about customs and traditions.


  4. Gori Girl
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 21:32:36

    Sorry to hear about your loss.

    Thanks. It is hitting us harder than I expected. The last time we saw her, we thought we’d still have time to fit in another 2 or 3 visits.


  5. Quirky Indian
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 05:43:01

    My condolences.

    Your explanation of the tradition seems to be correct; I too always thought it had to do with hygiene and well as a symbolic sense of closure.

    Quirky Indian


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: