December 8, 2008


Was busy writing about Jesús Gil and his protégé Juan Antonio Roca last week when a loud banging on the door interrupted my thoughts. It was Sra Noriega. Again in floods of tears. Fortunately P’s away so I could take as long as necessary to try to calm her down. (P, I have to admit, is a bit suspicious of her motives and believes she tries to take advantage of me sometimes so perhaps it was just as well he wasn’t at home.)

This time, though, I really couldn’t help feeling sympathy for her when at last she told me her news - her elder sister had just died and she wondered if I’d accompany her to the funeral. She’s feeling especially vulnerable at the moment not only because of her family’s extreme animosity towards JA but also their utter contempt for any plans she might still harbour to marry him. So a lift from one of them, not to mention JA, was clearly out of the question.

I’ve never attended a funeral in Spain before but remember reading somewhere that it’s important to find out straightaway where the family has congregated and when the funeral is to be held, because it’s likely to be very soon. So I lost no time getting on the phone to Sr Noriega’s daughter whom I’d met earlier at the wedding.

The funeral was, in fact, the following day in a small inland village. Since I was unfamiliar with the location, we arrived at the church really early and found those closest to the deceased, or to members of the family of the deceased, had already spent some time there commiserating with the family, some of whom had been up all night.

After many tearful embraces, we at last entered the church for Mass. What seemed a bit odd to me though was the fact that only a few attended the service and they were mainly women. When we later followed the coffin out of the church, however, we found all the men from the village waiting outside to shake hands with Senora Noriega and other family members and offer their condolences. The family and close friends then followed the coffin to the burial place and the rest of the village returned to its daily routine.

On the way back after a meal lasting over three hours, Sr Noriega seemed unusually expansive - about death. Maybe a reflection of her current feelings of loneliness and unhappiness...

Amongst other things, she pointed out that cremation, especially in the larger towns, was becoming more prevalent but it’s usually some hours after the funeral service itself with normally only family members present. Another custom which was gradually dying out, she added, was wearing mourning, although she was still of the generation that would always wear black for a certain period.

"Perhaps for the rest of my life if I can’t marry Juan Antonio," she sobbed.

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