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Post Mortem

When someone dies in Mallorca, in a community traditionally well steeped in the Catholic faith, a stringent set of ceremonial rites is set in place. First, a wake is being held at the house of the deceased. In the old days and in rural areas, the neighbours would come to the wake, women would wear black, wailing would commence and sometimes last for hours. Then, on the same day of the decease, the dead body would be presented in its coffin in a Sala de Despedido at the local cemetery, with the lid removed, to give family and friends the opportunity to gather to bid farewell to the deceased person. Usually, the dead body would then be buried or cremated within 24 hours of the last breath. A church service is normally conducted within a day or two, depending on the day of the week and of the number of deaths that might have occurred on a given day.

Yesterday, and quite by chance, I happened upon an obsequio (memorial wake) at the cemetery of Sant Joan. Maria Sanso died in the early hours of Saturday, age 80. Her husband and family chaired the wake and received the pésame (condolences) of friends and neighbours. The burial was scheduled for the evening. The funeral mass is scheduled for Monday, April 11th, at 19h30. In Felanitx, where I live, paper fliers announcing the death of a member of the community are printed and quickly distributed. This does not seem to be the case in Sant Joan, for whatever reason.

I did not have the guts to sneak a photo of the post-mortem exhibition; it would have felt insensitive and intrusive. Instead, I offer you a photo taken at the cemetery of Sant Joan. The cemetery is located at the foot of the Santuari de la Consolació in a slightly elevated position, is abundantly lined with palm trees and cypresses and affords the dead as well as the visitors a pleasant sight over the Mallorcan horizon, well into the distance towards Nirvana. It was a hot and sunny afternoon, peaceful.

The photo was taken in Sant Joan, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 9th, 2011. The time was 14:41:45.

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