LETTER FROM ... ROMANIA
FOREIGN FUNERAL Heartbreak in a Romanian village By Andy Trincia
ur arms interlocked tightly at the elbow. We stared downward in the chilly, quiet living room when an improbable question broke the silence. “Did you touch her yet?” my wife, Oana, asked as tears streaked down her high cheekbones. “She’s still warm.” Mama Ana, as she was known, my wife’s 82-year-old grandmother, died hours earlier in her small, century-old stone farmhouse in the Romanian
countryside. We journeyed 7,000 miles from California to Transylvania to witness her last days as her body shut down from liver disease. I have not attended many funerals or been around bodies much. I figured that I’d be uncomfortable, but the closeness I felt with Mama Ana prevailed. I slowly extended my right hand toward Mama Ana, who lay in a mahogany casket. Her head was covered by a kerchief, a batic, which she always
The writer’s wife, Oana, and mother-in-law, Ana, walk to church services the morning after Mama Ana’s funeral. The gravesite is on a hilltop next to the church, a short walk through the village from her home.
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wore, as most elderly women do in Romania. In life she was perpetually cold so she wore two, both fancily embroidered and pure black, as was her entire outfit, a long dress, satin vest with buttons and laced-up leather shoes. She picked out the ensemble long before she passed, all neatly packed in an old-school suitcase waiting for the moment. She looked serene except for a small hand towel tightly rolled and tucked under her chin to hold it in place— more elegantly, before the wake—as the body chilled permanently. I never thought about that before. Romanians are resourceful, I said to myself, for the millionth time. Oana was right. Mama Ana was still warm.