This specific blog is about a funeral. The title of this blog comes from a common Azeri saying. When you are departing from a wedding, you may say to a friend, neighbor, or whomever that you do not commonly see: “May we always see each other at weddings and never funerals.” I believe the explanation is clear. Let’s only get together for happy times and hope the sad ones never arrive. Well, life popped up an uncheery moment.

Back in April or May I had moved into new host family’s house. My new host mom’s name is Sevil. I had a great time living there. As part of the family, I got to meet Sevil’s family. Her mom and dad lived close by with their son, his wife, and their three children. They welcomed me into their family. I lived at Sevil’s for the summer and moved out to independent housing by mid-September. Even before I moved the grandmother would ask me every time I saw her, “Why do you never come over? Come over!” I would always response with “I will come.” However after moving, I went to America. After coming back from America, I was getting settled. After getting settled a new volunteer came to my house for 4 days. After the volunteer left, I had housing problems that needed immediate attention. I never went over.

A new week began. Monday started off great. I decided that this week, this week I was going to go and visit. I was going to print out the pictures of my brother’s wedding and bring the candy I had brought from America. Tuesday. Tuesday was the night I would go over after work. On Tuesday morning I hopped on a marshrutka (mini-bus) up to the center of Shamkir so I could go to the Bazar. I got on a bus and saw Sevil’s two nieces. This was odd because they live in Ganja and go to school there. I said “hi” and asked them how they were. They seemed sad and less talkative. On the bus I didn’t get to say much more. They got off, and I got off a bit further up the road. Walking back, I saw a funeral tent in front of their house. Grandma had passed away.

In Azerbaijan they do not have funeral homes. When someone dies, they set up a funeral tent in the middle of the road outside of the family’s house. The tent obstructs traffic, but no one complains (not that I’ve heard anyway). The tent is up for 7 straight days. Then I believe they put up the tent every week for the next 5 Thursdays then take it down. On the 40th day after the person has passed away there is another event for which the tent is put back up. When the tent is up for the 7 days straight, guests will come and eat in the tent on the 3rd day and on the 7th day. The day I post this blog, it is the 3rd day. I went with a friend, another American who also knew the family well, to the house. Thanks to God’s timing, we arrived when the women were gathered and sitting in a “room” outside next to the house. They had built the room by putting rugs up to be the walls under a roof structure. In the middle of the inside was a carpet which the women of the family sat on in a circle, crying. Nearest to them on a bench was a woman reading/singing from the Koran. Around the carpet were benches for the women guests to sit on. After the session, everyone got up to go eat in the tent on the road. I waited and got up last so I could hug Sevil and the other family members.

We all know life isn’t long. I can’t help thinking about Grandma and her saying “come over, come over.” I never found the time. There was always something else going on; I was too tired; I forgot the candy; I didn’t print out the pictures yet. I wish I had just gone over, sucked it up, thought “Who cares! I will go have some tea and just come back another time with the stuff.” I hope this makes me say “yes” more to guesting or tea. To pop in frequently to friends’ houses to have tea. To just do it when the thought occurs. Now, I’ll never get to see the happy look on her face that I came over. I’ll never get to ask questions and learn about her life. I can never make that connection now. Hope I don’t let another one pass by as easily.