Wanted: Residents to live in a charming Italian village. Must want a slower-paced life, laid-back mountain atmosphere, and crave fresh, local foods. Should be middle-age or younger, child-bearing age is even better; should be in good health. You'll enjoy gorgeous landscapes, centuries-old traditions, inexpensive housing, and warm hospitality.
I'm tired of funerals. Today I attended another one, my third since arriving here in September. It's the unfortunate fact of life that many residents are elderly and infirm, but it still seems an unusually high number even considering that. I've never had to attend three funerals in a year before, much less in five months. Villagers are beseeching us to import some new blood to help replenish the town.
It's not that there aren't people our age, and there *are* lots of kids running around; but unfortunately the history of southern Italy over the past 150 years has been one of emigration. Many have moved to the north or to other countries to find better-paying jobs, or with a vision that "life will be better" in an urban or industrial center. With just over 600 inhabitants, we really can't afford to lose any more to death or migration!
Italian funerals are an interesting contrast to the American traditions. In the US, due to the vastness of the country and the tendency to have family dispersed in different states, funerals are usually three or four days after the person has died. Here two days seems to be the maximum as chemicals aren't used to preserve the body. Giuseppe passed away yesterday morning and the funeral was held today at 3:30 p.m. (A friend informs us that by law they must wait at least 24 hours before burial to ensure that the person has, in fact, died.)
The funeral actually begins before the church ceremony. People gather at the giardino and await the hearse. The priest leads the procession, praying aloud as the hearse, the family of the deceased, and the townspeople follow slowly uphill to the church. Following the funeral Mass, everyone lines up to offer condolences and then group around in the upper piazza until the casket is placed into the hearse and the procession slowly snakes down the hill through town. The shops and coffee bars close during the funeral and remain shuttered until after the hearse has passed enroute to the cimitero. It is a sweet gesture of respect, I think.
Giuseppe was the brother of our upstairs neighbor who passed away in October. He was elderly and not in the best of health, and I saw a decline in him after Fabrizio had died. Still, it came as a surprise and I was sad for him. He was always very sweet to me. He had retired from a lifetime of work on the national police force, and during the weeks that I was here alone, before Bryan arrived, he would sometimes come down to check in on me when he came to visit his brother, just to make sure I was alright here on my own. He always smiled, stopped and kissed my cheek when he saw me on the street.
The thing I love about living here is how intimate it seems, how people welcome us in and accept us as a part of the community. That also means accepting the losses when they come and mourning together in cases such as these. But it's still a bit difficult. I mean, nobody likes funerals. And I'd like to not have to attend any more for a while.
So, if you know anybody who wants to help repopulate a pretty village and contribute to lowering the average age, please let me know. New residents are dearly wanted.