I was reading some literature about Korea this evening to try to learn more about Korea or to try to prick my brain and help me remember something interesting I have learned a long the way that people would find interesting. While reading, something reminded me of an incident that happened when I was in Romania. The teenage daughter of one of the families we knew became very sick, and she passed away. Everyone was sad, and we went to visit her family. We went to comfort our friends and show our respects to the girl, but we learned so much that day!
They had dressed the girl in a wedding dress before they put her in the coffin. They said all unmarried girls who die are dressed in wedding dresses in Romania because they never had the chance to be a bride. They put her in a coffin and propped the coffin up on chairs in the middle of the room. In her hand, they had placed a candle. They said that the candle would help her find her way in the afterlife. In the floor, under her coffin, they had placed broken dishes. They said that the dishes were there because they were her dishes, and she could no longer use them, so they broke them and put them there. There was a sheet on the mirror. I didn’t ask about it, but later a friend told me the reason the sheet was on the mirror was because when the spirit of the girl leaves her body, they didn’t want her spirit to see itself and get scared. The spirit was going to be a ghost, and perhaps the girl didn’t know yet that she was a ghost. Except for the wedding dress, they told me that all the different things they had done are always done when someone dies in Romania, and only the young unmarried girls were dressed in wedding dresses when they passed away.
There were lots of flowers!
When the body was taken to the church building, we went to the Orthodox church building, and everyone was dressed in black which should be expected. They put flowers all around the body at the church building, and the body was in the middle of the floor elevated in the coffin like it had been in her house. The priest came in. He didn’t have that much to say except he was carrying incense and kept saying over and over again in Romanian, “Pity us Lord! Pity us Lord! Pity us Lord!” In America, everyone would have sat down and let the priest talk about what a good person she was, but that isn’t what he did.
The people got themselves organized and they put the coffin in a very fancy cart. We walked with the funeral procession to the grave yard. We always knew when there was a funeral in Romania because there was a parade through the street of people dressed in black, and the coffin would be in a very fancy wagon.
Once we arrived at the grave yard. There was food at the grave yard. They were giving out bread and glasses of wine. As an American, it really surprised me because we never eat at the graveside in America. It felt disrespectful for me, and I couldn’t eat, so they told me to just take some food for later. I really was in awe that people could eat the grave yard, but it was normal for them. When they put the body in the ground, several people took a shovel and shoveled just one shovel of dirt each onto the body. They didn’t bury the body. It was just symbolic. The people in charge of the graveyard buried the body afterward.
I went to other wakes and other funerals in Romania, but I probably learned more at this one than any other. If you look at ancient history, the Romans during the time of the Roman empire also used to put a candle in the hand of the deceased to help them find their way in the afterlife.