This is an incredibly wordy post, I am sorry!!
As I mentioned in the previous post, Cengiz’s father passed away just a few days after the wedding. About a month before the wedding, he went in for a routine checkup and the doctors discovered he had a heart clot. He refused to get surgery before the wedding because he didn’t want to be bed ridden when all of the guests came. He was fine for the next few weeks but then about five days before the wedding, he had a brain hemorrhage, I think due to the heavy doses of medicine to try to clear up the heart clot. He was in a coma for the next week and a half, until he finally slipped away. We agree that it was the best way to go – he lived a good 81 years, and he went in a painless, peaceful way. In addition, all 11 of his children were in Trabzon so everyone had a chance to say goodbye, and to be there for the funeral.
The 24 hours after the funeral were some of the toughest hours I’ve ever had. To begin with, I was at his sister’s house in Rize, a city near Trabzon where the father was in the hospital, when I got the news. Cengiz and his brother were already at the hospital, and thank goodness his mother had gone to her village house in Trabzon the day before. I don’t know what I would have done if we had been in the house together when we learned he had died. Anyway, people started coming to the house in hysterics. Moaning, weeping, praying – it was very uncomfortable because I wasn’t at the same level of sadness as the daughters. I felt like I couldn’t be in the room with them because I wasn’t sobbing, and my Turkish wasn’t at the level to comfort someone in the time of death. After the body had been cleaned at the hospital, everyone carpooled to his village, about 2 hours away. When we arrived it was about 9pm, and about 50 women had already gathered around the casket (not open) and were wailing, singing, sobbing, almost passing out…because we were up in the mountains it was quite cool, but some villagers gave Sermin (my sister in law) and me sweaters and headscarves. They made sure we had a place to sit and people were passing water around. After about 2 hours of that they moved the body into his house where all of the women continued to surround him and cry. I don’t know how long this went on because some nice villager took Sermin and me to her house to sleep at about 1am (we slept in our clothes in the same bed). The men slept in the house with the body so the father wouldn’t be alone.
The next morning we woke up at about 7 and the women were already around the body, still weeping and singing. The body was moved outside and it was so hot, people were passing around umbrellas and they put up a tent. Women almost passed out because of the energy they were exerting. I’m not exaggerating, this went on until about 12 or 1pm, when the men took the body to the mosque to do Friday prayer with him. After that they buried him, in a grave he had already dug for himself 20 years before.
Keep in mind I have no idea what is going on, and even Sermin didn’t either. I can hardly understand anyone, and except for about 5 seconds at his sister’s house, and 10 seconds in the village, I hadn’t seen Cengiz. What do you say in this situation? What do you do? Even in your own language it’s difficult. There really isn’t anything you can say, so I figured the best thing I can do is be as easy as possible, and go with the flow. For the next three days there were Koran readings at the grave, and also at the house twice a day. In the afternoon we went to the mosque. When we weren’t doing that, we were eating at a neighbor’s house, or sitting around drinking tea. To be honest, it was incredibly boring at times, and I’ve never had to sit on the floor so much since kindergarten. I tried to help out by doing dishes or preparing breakfast, but the women had a hard time letting the American girl do such things. I felt bad for Sermin and Ayse, Cengiz’s other brother’s wife – the expectations for them are so much different. I helped carry some tree stumps that we used to sit on for the Koran readings and people were shocked and whispered, “She’s carrying them, look!” “You don’t need to do that, it’s difficult work!” Sermin was doing the same thing but no one noticed. Same if I carried dishes to the counter, or tried to wash them. I had absolutely nothing to do – sometimes washing dishes was the most interesting activity of the morning.
I have to pat myself on the back now and say Cengiz was so proud of me for those few days. I really made the effort to talk to everyone, and help out when I could. He was so happy I got to know his family more, and they got to know me. When we got back to Istanbul he was boasting to everyone about how well I handled it, and I am so glad I made him feel that way because obviously this was a very tough time for him, and it was really the only thing I could do to make him feel better. I’m not going to lie, after 4 days of no shower and of wearing the same clothes, I was really excited to make a trip “down the mountain” to Akcaabat, and wash my hair and sit on a toilet and have a little bit of quiet time!
This experience would have been a photographer or anthropologist’s dream. Being up in the mountains, in this tiny, close knit community was such a unique time for me, and to remember that this is where Cengiz came from made it even more of an experience. The lifestyle these people have is so foreign to a modern, and now city-girl like me. They wake up very early to pray and then milk the cows, and wander all over the hills following the cows. If they aren’t following the cows, they are in the fields working, or lugging branches and logs to the house to burn in the oven, which they use to heat their house and to cook with. In Cengiz’s village it’s typically the women who work like this. Many of the men work or worked in Europe and sent money home, so the women had to take on these tough and labor intensive jobs while they were gone. How Cengiz’s mother managed to raise 11 kids while doing all of that work, with her husband in Germany, is absolutely astounding. It makes me think twice before complaining!
I am REALLY sorry this post is so long, but it was such an interesting and difficult time, I needed to tell you about it. I want to share some pictures because it really is a beautiful area.
A couple of days after the funeral, going further up the mountain to visit Cengiz’s uncle.
I AM NOT A MUSLIM don’t be scared. Cengiz did not order me to wear the scarf. I wore it for events related to his father as a sign of respect, and every woman wears one in a traditional way in day to day life there. In addition, it kept me warm and after 5 days of not washing my hair I seriously needed to hide it.
Cengiz’s uncle loves to tell stories, and while I couldn’t understand a word he said, I loved taking pictures of him. He’s got a great face for pictures, a professional would have been able to have gotten some better pictures.
My husband is handsome.
Yakup, the mother, and Cengiz.
Morning mist in the valley
Another sister in the middle, with the chain saw.
Waiting for food
I wish I had taken more photos, but I hope you get the idea of what a unique and beautiful place Cengiz grew up in.
I still get teary when I think about how excited Cengiz’s father was to meet my family and show them the village, but sadly he was in a coma before they could cross paths. Cengiz said he has never seen him so excited, and some even speculated that the excitement did him in. While I had only met Cengiz’s father a few times, his humor and kindness will always stay with me. Cengiz has told me stories about how hard he worked in both Germany and in Trabzon doing construction, and I can see where Cengiz gets his sense of responsibility, self discipline, and diligence. It’s a shame to lose someone like Cengiz’s father, but our time will come eventually and I hope we can all go as peacefully and painlessly, and surrounded by family like he was. We visited his grave a couple of weeks ago when we were in Trabzon and he’s in a wonderful place, overlooking the green mountains and fields that he loved.