Discouraged about no Internet and still exhausted, I haven’t taken the time to write anything in a few days.
On Thursday, Elly bought a box of raisin cookies (they were one of my favorites as a kid) and we headed to the nearby Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e Hamze, a beautiful shrine which also happens to be where my grandfather is buried. The old ladies at the entrance gave us chadors to borrow and we entered the courtyard paved with gravestones. Elly showed us our grandfather’s headstone and passed out the cookies to others in the courtyard (the first I’d heard of that tradition). Norah took one bite of her cookie (her first taste) and said, ‘THIS is the right kind of cookie!’
At the end of the courtyard, we removed our shoes and entered the portico of the shrine. I don’t know what I expected I would see when we pulled back the heavy curtain to enter the shrine, but I can tell you that I was dazzled by what I did see. Mosaic mirrorwork covers the entire ceiling, beautiful carpets on the floor, praying ladies in between. Elly told me that my grandmother loves to spend time there. I understood why.
Norah was also impressed, but I worried that we would offend the praying women with our chatting and her play. No need to worry at all. I certainly felt a bit out of place, but never felt our presence was unwelcome.
Friday morning, we had another new experience. My father’s uncle’s wife’s brother (you follow?) passed away recently, and the 40 day ceremony was held at an uptown mosque. We entered the ladies’ side of the mosque, removed our shoes, and sat with the rest of the women along the edges of the room. We were late (ask me about Iranian traffic), so the ladies (and men, whom we could hear but not see on the other side of the wall) were already singing, patting their chests, and, in many cases, crying. We were served refreshments and brought tissues. Again, I worried that Norah would be overwhelmed by the experience, but she happily dug into her snack of halva and banana and never asked me a question. I, on the other hand, got totally swept up and ended up in tears watching the deceased man’s daughter and wife mourn. What a beautiful way to support grieving relatives through the process.
After the ceremony, we greeted the mourners, met some more family and then went outside to join the men.