One evening, a couple of weeks ago, as I am driving into Kalamata to do my weekly stint of private teaching, I take a call on my mobile phone from Dina, our neighbour Niko’s unmarried daughter. The signal is bad so I stop the car and stand on the windswept road by the sea with spray erupting a few yards off. Dina tells me, in Greek, that her mother died at lunchtime. My Greek is limited and I am not sure I have understood properly.
The following morning Linda and I stop off at their house in the village. We knock and go in. Frosso is laid in an open coffin surrounded by flowers, and the house is full, solid with people from the village sitting in silence.
Niko, Dina and the other members of the family are sitting at the far end of the room with a priest and we edge through to offer our sympathy and then sit for a few minutes with the other mourners. An old lady comes in from the street. She stands by Frosso’ coffin speaking agitatedly to her and stroking her face and hair.
The funeral takes place at noon, only twenty four hours after her death, but it seems to be the way it’s done here, sensible I guess, particularly in the hot summertime. The whole village follows the coffin to the cemetery. Three priests in their tall hats intone the necessary prayers for what seems like a long time.
In the days that follow, we pop in from time to time and the house is always full of neighbours and friends, the fire always burning in the big chimney. Niko has stopped shaving and won’t shave again for another year or more. It’s hard for him. They were married for fifty years.