Mourning customs

June 10, 2012

At a monthly meeting last week where I volunteer (at a visiting nurse and hospice agency) we were given some hand-outs, and one of them was about customs for different religious and ethnic groups surrounding terminal illness and death.

I read it through with a view to patients and their families, but I was also struck by how my template for mourning seemed to match best with what was described under “Portugal,” at least the pull if not the implementation:  “The traditional widow is expected to remain unmarried and to wear black clothing for the rest of her life.  She visits the grave frequently and has a picture of the deceased spouse evident in the home.”

I’ve had the urge towards a contemplative spiritual life since becoming a widow, and if I subscribed to a set of beliefs that coincided with a religion that had  convents, I would be tempted to try to enter one.  The black clothing thing I have struggled against — I did manage to get out of black and into multi-hued drab, and if I make a concerted effort I can do colorful from time to time.  The grave thing has worn off over time, and when I got negative feedback from a guest about (still) having a wedding picture in the foyer, I replaced it with a family photo, until I realized a couple of years later how dated even that photo had become and I put it elsewhere in the house.

I also became interested again, a couple of years after Willy’s death, in my Visigothic Widows research from long ago, especially in a law code provision about widows and support through property relinquished upon remarriage.

I was wondering why I might tend in this direction and I was staring out my front door thinking it over, and it suddenly occurred to me to wonder whether I had picked up something from the folks across the street — a multi-generation family from Portugal.  Who knows …

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