Friday, April 13, 2007

An unexepected midweek trip to Montrondo, goodbye Virginia and and how mourning unites the family

The church in Montrondo
Hi again

Just as we had all settled into our routines after the Easter break, we received an unexpected phone call from Eladio’s younger sister Pili on Tuesday morning to say that Virginia had died the night before at the grand old age of 94.

As I write these words, a shiver goes down my arms. So who is Virginia you may ask? Virginia is Primo’s Mother. And who is Primo? Primo is my brother-in-law and husband of Adela, Eladio’s sister. Very far removed you will say and yes of course she is. But Virginia was a very special woman and it’s difficult to describe what I mean.

Virginia was born and is now buried in her beloved native Montrondo. And where or what is Montrondo? Well, Montrondo is to Eladio’s family a bit like what Macondo is to Gabriel García Márquez – the town that figures in “Cien Años de Soledad” (Hundred Years of Solitude). Montrondo is Eladio’s family village – a small place tucked away in a remote area of the mountains of León in north west Spain. Nowadays there are only 20 inhabitants but once upon a time it was a thriving village of approximately 300 people. Montrondo means everything to Eladio’s family and it is where they were all born. And Virginia was from Montrondo and lived there all her life. I met her the first time I visited Montrondo when I was Eladio’s bride and I always remember her hospitality and smiling face. Whenever I saw her that smile never left her face. She had the face, even in her 90’s of a good looking but naughty urchin or rascal who was never happier than in her old house in Los Palacios of Montrondo or digging potatoes in the orchard with Primo. Virginia was in a way a symbol of Montrondo and for me at least, now that she has gone, Montrondo will never be the same again. The Palacios will seem completely empty without her.

"El Campo" - the centre of Montrondo
And on Tuesday night she died in the arms of her beloved son Primo, as a “fish when it leaves the sea” which is how he described it to me. So, of course, we had to go to her funeral to bare her our final respects. And the day of her departure could not have been brighter. The sun shone brightly on Montrondo as José Antonio, Eladio and I arrived just on time for the funeral on Wednesday morning. I think I have never seen so many people or cars in the village as I did that day. The funeral car was surrounded by her family and friends from near and far, all gathered together outside the lovely little church in Montrondo. That church also means so much to all of us and it is where we all gather together in the good moments and the bad. The men sit at the back and the women at the front and even though today is 2007 the tradition is never broken.

It was worth going to pay our last respects if only to comfort Primo and his family at such difficult moments for them. I seem to have been to so many funerals recently, my own Mother’s, my brother’s and then Eladio’s father’s not so long ago and each funeral brings back the memories of the last.

But the best thing about Virginia’s funeral was how it united our family. Thanks to her we met up with all Eladio’s brothers and sisters and even had lunch with his Mother whom we hadn’t seen since New Year’s Eve.

After the funeral we drove back to León and José Antonio, Eladio and I were invited to lunch at Pili’s house with Andrés, her husband and my favourite brother-in-law and their children, Paula and Mario who are hardly children anymore. Mario is about 17 and is 1.95 cm tall and of course plays handball nearly professionally. Paula is studying audiovisual communication at Salamanca University and is delighted at her newly found independence. Ernestina, my mother-in-law was also there and it was great to see her. And after lunch we were joined for coffee by Adela and Primo and their son Roberto and girlfriend Ana who are soon to be married.

Here are some pictures of the lovely lunch at Pili and Andres’ house. Thanks Virginia for reuniting the family and cheers forever. Keep smiling up there.

Lunch at Pili's


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