|Gran Canaria seen from Tenerife.|
(Words before my grandfather Israel’s niche)
The morning of All Souls’ Day, my mother and I came into the cemetery, in order to visit my grandfather’s niche, with a bunch of white chrysanthemums, as if they were white symbols of immortality. The entire cemetery irradiated a serene sadness, which didn’t invite to lamentations or inconsolable sobs, but rather to melancholic thoughts, to the sad calm of the great elegiac poems. Some birds –maybe goldfinches– sang with an unusual strength, as if they weren’t in autumn, but in the beginning of spring, in the period of courtship. Didn’t the birds have to keep silence this morning of All Souls’ Day? –I asked myself. No: they had to keep singing, because nature follows its secret rhythm; the celebrations and calendars of men don’t concern it.
My grandfather’s niche faces south, towards the coast. Although the cemetery is far from the ocean, this latter can be seen easily from it, especially from its highest streets, because it’s built over a hillside. Waves couldn’t be distinguished. The sun spilled itself over the water like a diamond broken in countless fragments. The nearby island emerged from the horizon with unspeakable clarity, showing me its bluish peaks. In that moment, when I look it in the distance opposite the tombs of the cemetery, it seemed me to be an image of the island of the blessed, where the righteous would be taken to in order to rest from the hardship of life. I ran my hand over the marble tombstone which closes my grandfather’s niche; it was hot, because it was receiving all the light of morning. At least the sun warms up his bones mercifully –I thought in that moment–, redeeming them from the gloomy cold of the niche where they lie. My mother and I spread the chrysanthemums among a crystal jug and two glasses put beside the niche. I remember then some verses of Ugo Foscolo, that belong to his famous ode The sepulchres: [...] Ahi! su gli estinti / non sorge fiore, ove non sia d’umane /lodi onorato e d’amoroso pianto ([...] Ah!, over the dead / flowers wouldn’t be born if it wasn’t due to human / worries and loving tears.). How much reason Foscolo had: only men, with their work, care and keep the tombs of the dead, because their last dwelling–places are also subjected to the wearing away of time. That morning, I cried in silence before my grandfather’s niche, with resigned tears, with the certitude that death is a natural law, because our complaints can’t help it. But death keeps hurting although we become aware of its inevitability, because it leaves open the question about the last fate of man, that each one answers as well as he can. More than ten years have passed from my grandfather’s death, but the sorrow inherent to his absence revives when I come back to the cemetery.
My grandfather was a socialist and supporter of secularism: there were drops of Jacobin blood in his veins, as Machado would say. He belonged to a generation who had known a wide range of humiliations: the ration books, the persecution of dissidents, the somniferous allocutions of the dictator, the obligation of raising arms when the national anthem played, and the marriage of ecclesiastic and civil powers. According to Catholic orthodoxy, he should find himself in some kind of hell, because of having separated himself from the Church. Some years ago, when I went to mass every Sunday (although I wasn’t born in a too religious family, I tried to follow the commandments of the Church during some time), worried for the fate of my grandfather’s soul, I always said some prayers for it. However, nowadays I consider that, if a God transcends reality and his mercy towards man lacks any limit, as that same orthodoxy states, he must hardly to correspond with the image of him that offer us some that arrogate the absolute knowledge of his will with the boldness of human condition. While my mother and I were gazing my grandfather’s niche in thoughtful silence, a sparrow passed by flying beside us. Fast like a whistle, it disappeared among the cypresses of the cemetery, drawing an undulating rhythm with its wings. Then I remembered the words of Hyperion, the main character of the homonymous Hölderlin’s novel: Holy Nature!, you are the same inside and outside me. Perhaps nature wasn’t the same inside and outside me, who was crying before my grandfather’s niche, inside and outside all the sepulchres of the cemetery? In truth my grandfather hadn’t died, I thought. In the same way that rivers flow into the ocean, his spirit had joined to the stream of life force which animates the entire universe, and he was outside the niche, in the sparrow that had just passed by besides us, in the cypresses that grew slowly, in the sun that warmed up his tombstone, in the infinite and calm ocean. And I understood that I hadn’t to cry, but keep myself serene, because there truly wasn’t any death, but transfiguration.