East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


The last goodbye to my mother

My mother died in june 2007, for complications after a cancer surgery. She was buried in the “Cimitero Parco” (that is, the Park Graveyard) in the outskirts of Turin. My mother had always been flippant about her final resting place. She said my brother and I would not even bring her flowers, and she’d rather have a Native American-style burial, her body exposed on a tree, for the crows to feed and take her back into the cycle of things.

Six weeks ago I got a call from the graveyard administration.
It was time to remove my mother’s remains from the ground, and place them in a boneyard. Of course I knew this would happen, and I was not overly worried about it. I had seen it happen for my grandmother – a matter of a few signatures on some papers, and learning where the body would be placed.

But things have changed, since my grandmother was moved from her grave.
In particular, the Park Graveyard is now a for profit company – and the translation of the remains is now a business.
The call I got six weeks ago informed me that there would be a price to pay – around 1500 euro, minimum. Less, maybe, if I could produce papers certifying my current shaky financial situation.
The basic service that was free twenty years ago, is now fifteen hundred bucks.

That was a shock.
First, we can’t afford that kind of money, and then… is this some kind of kidnapping?
“We’ve got your mother’s remains, now pay!”

I asked the lady at the other end of the line whether there is any alternative, but was told “we can’t discuss this on the phone”.
I was given an appointment, for today, and I started doing the rounds of the office to gather all the financial documentation I hoped would help.
All this, with all the obvious difficulties of living in the countryside, of being in a soft lockdown situation, with a virus still infecting people, and working over two provinces – I live in Asti, my mom is buried in Turin, 100 kilometers away.

We checked the website of the graveyard company, and retrieved their services and fees list. We found out the figure of 1500 euro was exactly accurate … 600 euros for the digging up of the remains, 900 for the placement in a boneyard.
Anything else would be more expensive, up to over 5000 euros.
We also found out we’d be able to ask the graveyard to hold our mother in a deposit, for up to two years, for 8 euro a day.

It was extremely time-consuming, stressful and it made a difficult period even more so.
Then, just as I had almost all the paperwork sorted out, I was told my appointment had been anticipated.
And so, without the financial details, on Monday I found a passage to Turin, and I went to see the graveyard people about my mother’s bones.

A rainy day in a Turin graveyard, late April that felt like October.

It was there I found out there is an alternative to the 1500 fee.
One that is not discussed on their website, and they will only explain in their offices, and only on a direct, specific question.
And it goes like this: I sign a paper called “Disinterest Declaration”, in which I say I am not interested in what will happen to the remains of my mother. At this point, I will not pay a single cent, and my mother’s bones will be disinterred and placed in a boneyard in the Turin Monumental Cemetery and I will never know where they are.

Basically, it’s “We’ve got your mother’s remains, if you want to know where they are, you need to pay.”

And so I signed.
My mother would come back from the afterlife and haunt me forever should she know I have thrown away so much money for such a thing.
In a week or two, the body will be dug out, and placed in a small box, and put somewhere in the Monumental Cemetery.
I will never know where exactly.

Unless I decide to pay.
Because they will keep a record, and should I change my mind, and shell out the cash, they’ll be happy to point me in the right direction.

And remembering my mom, I know she’d be terribly angry, at the sole idea of this kind of ransom-like transaction.
And she would also laugh a lot, out loud, at the whole thing.

Because she’s with me every day, not in any supernatural or mystical way, but just out of memory and affection.
It does not matter where the fossil remains are stored.

Anyway, now you know why I’ve been absent so frequently in the last weeks.