pühapäev, jaanuar 27, 2008
Last week we drove out to Viljandimaa to visit Epp's grandparents, Karl and Laine. Karl just turned 80 a few weeks ago, and he was in good spirits despite dozing off several times during our little party for him. Laine is pushing 80 and is quite active. During the visit she allowed us to borrow some old family photos, including the incredibly sad one above.
It's of a funeral for 1-year-old Voldemar Landmann, Laine's older brother, who died in 1929 in Varbla Parish. Had he lived, he might be like Karl, dozing off at a party somewhere, surrounded by younger generations of relatives, collecting a state pension, and watching the Estonian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? on ETV. But that was not to be.
If you look closely you'll see that there is an open casket. To this day, Estonians see nothing wrong in taking a group shot with the recently deceased. I never quite figured out who was in the right when it came to this cultural peculiarity.
Are Estonians more in touch with the cycles of life, and so comfortable with death that they commemorate funerals with group photographs? Or are they simply insensitive and enamored with technology, snapping photos of kittens and coffins alike with an itchy finger so that they can upload them to share with friends?
I am not really sure, but it is sometimes uncomfortable to flip through a family photo album with Estonian friends, only to see their grandma there, laid out on display in a church and surrounded by mourners. It sort of ruins the moment. On the other hand, you are photographed at birth, and at your wedding. Why not at your funeral too?