My grandmother whom I called ‘Mama’ passed away peacefully on the 16th of March 2017 at the ripe old age of 96. She was a truly remarkable woman who had a tremendous impact on me. She was humble and always thankful whether she had much or little. She was the gentlest person I have had the privilege of knowing. The rare times I heard her raise her voice was when she was being protective of her precious dogs. She was frugal and yet generous towards others in terms of her time, resources, attention and love. When I was working for an organization that required me to raise my own funds, she was the only person that supported me regularly throughout my time there.
When I look back on my childhood, what I remember most about her were the Saturday sleepovers at my grandparent’s place with my brother. We used to accompany her to her hairdresser’s on Saturday and spent the afternoon playing at her home. On Sunday mornings, she would bring us with her to church. Much of what I heard in church during those days went in one ear and out the other, but I am pretty sure that the little that did stick in my head, together with her prayers, were seeds that over time germinated into my own love for Jesus Christ.
The Beatitudes by Jesus kept on coming to mind when I think of my grandmother:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:3-12
About four and a half years ago, I photographed my grandfather’s funeral (see HERE). Since then, I have photographed other funerals and found that the photographs make for an important record of a sad and difficult time. When I look at my photographs from events such as weddings, baptisms, birthdays, and even funerals, a quote by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók comes to my mind:
“What matters most of all, is to penetrate into the pulsing of life of the people themselves, to become imbued with their way of living, and to see their faces when they sing at their weddings, harvests and funerals, and from all these associations to distill and preserve something more significant than a song on record, something beyond music and words, an abstract essence that will remain a living force within you.” – Béla Bartók (1881 – 1945)
Mama was beautiful in life and in death. Her funeral felt to me like a celebration of a life well-spent. We all miss her dearly and look forward to seeing her again in heaven. The following are a selection of photographs I took during her wake and funeral.