Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

February 2, 2008

Tinum...Taking Out The Bones

On this particular Sunday morning, we woke up early to be at the graveyard at 7 a.m. It was the 4 year anniversary of the death of an older man from a family we knew, and today they would be digging up his bones to move them to a smaller box. It was cheaper for the family to only pay for space for 4 years, and then make a smaller box along the edge of the graveyard that would be permanent (and also so the hole could be reused for someone else, because space was limited in the graveyard).

The whole family was there, dressed more or less in nice clothes, discussing where the new box would go and how big of a mausoleum should be built. The gravedigger showed up at about 8, and set to with his pickax. The grave was covered with a shallow layer of cement, held up with a layer of sticks and logs. Underneath, sometimes they were filled with dirt, and sometimes just the box with the body is lowered into the ground and left as is. As the gravedigger (who had removed his shirt to keep it clean and to expose his beer belly) removed more and more of the cement, the family began to inch closer and closer in a circle around the grave. The gravedigger removed chunks of cement and logs,  without any ceremony, and chucked them over the nearby cemetary rock wall. When the open grave was fully exposed, he jumped into the hole and peeled back the bag that had held the body (unlike the typical box made by the town carpenter, this was almost just a body bag) to expose the head, which he then covered with a white cloth.

After a short Coke break, he jumped back in the grave to remove the bones. First came the head, which was still sort of mouldy black color rather than a nice bleached white, and another pass to grab some of the hair that had fallen off. Then the rest in succession, shoulder blades, ribs, spine, arm bones, etc. Each bone got a perfunctory wipe with a white cloth before being placed into a little cloth-covered box, which did nothing to make them seem cleaner, they still looked very black and greasy. He even gathered all of the finger bones, almost seeming to count them to see if he found them all, digging around in the cloth and dirt and shirt that had covered the corpse. The leg bones he had to pull out of the pants that still seemed almost wearable.

Finally all the bones were inside the box, and it was taken to the little shack that served as an office, to keep until the new place was built. At that, everything seem to be over, and with a last stare into the hole, everyone started drifting off. I wondered what they were going to do with the wrappings that still lay in the grave, and at that, the gravedigger came back, gathered up the clothes into a bundle, and with absolutely no ceremony, threw them over the graveyard wall. Then it really seemed to be over, until one of the men remembered that he had a wart and needed some of the dirt from the body to put on it (as per the local tradition to cure warts). After some discussion, he considered jumping over the wall to dig in the coverings, but then had a better idea. He went to the shack, removed the top of the box (which had been quickly nailed on) and rubbed some of the bone grease over his wart, and then put the top back on. And as we were all leaving, I could see the other side of the rock wall, which held growing piles of....broken cement and body bags.

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