My good friend Reza loves the free food at Iranian funeral parties! Somehow he figures out if there is a memorial for somebody somewhere and he gets himself in there, invited or not! And even if he gets discovered, people generally don’t mind. It’s the Iranian hospitality, I guess. I did not know this about him until I ran into him at one of my own relatives’ memorial party, held at my uncle’s house!
A while ago, one of my great uncles passed away from the old age in Iran and one of my uncles invited us all to his house for a memorial party; nothing religious or sad, just a family gathering to remember the man, his life and his contributions.
“How did you know about my great uncle’s memorial party?” I asked Reza. “Even I didn’t know that he had passed away in Tehran last month!”
Reza looked embarrassed, but he quickly recovered. “Is he your great uncle? No kidding! I am glad that I could make it here. Sorry to hear about the sad news man. I hope that it is going to be your last loss for a long time.”
A few months ago, Reza called and gave me the news. “Do you remember Farshid’s in-laws that came to the US last year to visit their daughter and grandkids? Remember that I took you to a party at Farshid’s house?”
“Oh, yeah! I remember the old man in the brown suit who was asking us about Viagra and his wife in the colorful head scarf. What about them?”
“Well the old man just passed away and tomorrow there is going to be the burial and a family gathering afterwards. It would be great if you could come too. I’m sure that they would be grateful.” Reza replied.
I remembered that about a year ago Reza took me to Farshid’s house to meet his in-laws. It is always fun to meet people who have come to the US for the first time. They notice things that the rest of us completely ignore. They generally like the fact that most people that you meet in the US look you in the eyes and smile. Or how polite and honest the cashiers at supermarkets are, and things like that. They also can’t figure out the coins and are confused by the money because they are all the same size and the same color.
At the party, Reza and I talked to the old man for a while about politics and then we started telling jokes. After a while the old man came a little bit closer and whispered, “Is it true what they say about Viagra? Can you get me some?” We both started laughing. I am sure that he knew about Viagra. He just wanted a supplier. Reza always carried some essentials in his car. “I can get you some. It is generic and made in El Salvador. It is more potent so make sure that you cut it in half.” Reza replied with a big smile.
As Reza left the house to get some goodies for the old man, I had all these images racing through my brain. The old man in brown suit making love to his wife in the head scarf! This was nothing like the TV commercials where an attractive middle-age couple all of a sudden get the urge and start giving each other the look! And then in the final scene, they are sitting in the wilderness in two bathtubs holding hands! How do they get the bathtubs to the wilderness and aren’t they afraid of the bears or the mountain lions?
Reza picked me up the next day and we headed to the cemetery. When we got there everybody was standing quietly and waiting for the instructions on what to do and where to go. Reza and I stood next to Farshid and a group of elderly men. After a while a Pakistani mortician with a big mustache and in Muslim outfit came out of the back area and told the men to follow him to see the old man for the last time. I knew that Reza had been to the war and had seen his share of dead and wounded people, but this was the first time for me.
We entered the back area and there he was, the old man, naked like the day he was born, on a marble table; completely uncovered with his manhood in full display! I quickly glanced at him and then dropped my head. It was so creepy and intrusive. “This is not right. Why are we here looking at the naked body of a dead man? Maybe it was the Viagra or the sex that did him in! Who knows!” I thought to myself.
The mortician read a bunch of things from Ghoran in Arabic and then told us to leave and meet him at the grave site in the Muslim section of the cemetery. We all left the building and started walking towards his grave site. There were rows and rows of tombstones in an orderly manner and each had a story to tell, until we got to the Muslim section. The graves were at an angle facing Mecca as if in defiance of the order and the harmony of the rest of the cemetery!
Everyone gathered around the freshly-dug grave. I took a peek inside. There was a cement block the size of a body in there. There was a small John Deere excavator parked nearby. I could see what the next steps were. The Pakistani mortician and his assistant got the body that was wrapped in a white shroud out of the back of the limo and brought it next to the grave. The mortician then said, “I want two men in the grave!” We all looked at each other as if trying to say, “Not me!”
I am sure that Reza had seen this before. He grabbed my hand and said, “We are going in!” Before I could say, “The hell I won’t!” I was there at the edge of the grave. Reza jumped in and stood on the cement block. I did the same and stood on the opposite side, only our heads and shoulders visible. They passed on the body to us. The mortician told me to be careful with the head. He was not a big man, but his head pressing against my chest felt so heavy. We slowly lowered the body and placed it in the cement block. I looked at the mortician asking for guidance! He told us that we were done and can come out. I got out of there so fast that I couldn’t believe that I still had the agility.
I looked around. The widow gave me an appreciative look. I could tell that she was not happy with Farshid. The mortician got into his John Deere, put the top on the cement block and started pushing the dirt into the grave. The women cried. The men looked somber as if they were imagining their own funeral. I just wanted to go home, take a shower and forget about all of this!
On the way to the funeral party at Farshid’s house I told Reza “If I die today, I don’t want any of this! Please tell my relatives that I want to be cremated and my ashes spread all over a pasture or a soccer field somewhere!”
Here is Ave Maria, A Masterpiece and the best funeral music!