Friday : I’m in a big hotel room, alone and far from home. Tomorrow, we are going to bury my grandmother. For a few days now, life has been painted in richer, deeper colors. Everything is saturated and yet, I don’t feel sad.
For the first time, I am walking on this land, the land she had wanted to return to, the land where people that I don’t know love her too. I met them all today. They welcomed me with a cup of mint tea that burned my tongue and foods I had never tasted anywhere other than in the coolness of her kitchen.
We don’t understand each other, I don’t speak their language. My mother translates, and I smile.
The house is bright and beautiful. We walk barefoot on large colorful tiles. We gather in the shade of a tiny patio. You only have to raise your hand to reach fresh figs and pomegranates directly from the trees.
Sometimes, we cry. But most of the time, laughter finds its way into every crook and crevice. The kids chase after the chickens and the adults busy themselves : everything has to be ready for tomorrow. Tomorrow.
Saturday : I opened the curtains and in front of my eyes is the sea, wide and endless and luminous. I ate a small semolina bread and drank my coffee while watching the complicated flight of the seagulls. Then I dressed in white and we left.
After half an hour on a small winding road, we arrive. People hug me tight and whisper in my ear prayers I can’t understand. Everyone is dressed in white. A little girl is looking at me. She is wearing a dress that reminds me of those I used to wear when I was a kid. I smile at her. She takes my hand and doesn’t let it go for the rest of the day. Only sometimes, to laugh and play.
Then my grandmother’s coffin arrives and everyone is silent. Suddenly, the burn I was waiting for takes over. I hold my mother close in my arms.
Sunday : I’m starting to get used to the spicy scents, the strong light and to the staccato rhythm of this country. I’d always been afraid of what I would find here. The history of my family, so complicated, so meticulously tangled by my grandmother who loved nothing more than to cultivate mystery, which always kept me imagining the worst.
I had pictured a wild country, a disapproving family. I found only grace and kindness. If I had always understood why my grandmother had wanted to leave, I now understand why she requested to be put to rest here. She rests beneath fertile ground, under an olive tree that faces the sea.
I don’t know if I’ll ever come back, but I am happy I was with her on her last journey. I am happy she made me come, she had always wanted to take me here with her. I am happy because I know she would be. I am happy because things are in place, flooded with love, in all their sadness and their beauty.