It rains in the Pays Basque. It’s raining right now. Today is the day when the French, and perhaps others, honor their departed by visiting their grave sites, where they clean the stone or tomb, and add new plants and flowers. It’s a national holiday and most things are closed, so that everyone can participate.
Earlier in the week when it wasn’t raining, I was fortunate enough to witness this ritual when my friend Martine invited me along to her parents’ and grandparents’ gravesites in Hendaye.
I watched as she removed the stone vases and markers, the little engraved stone acknowledgements that are typical here, swept away the leaves with a little broom and wiped down everything before baptizing the entire tomb with fresh water. Then she replaced all the markers, placed the fresh plants and flowers, paused for a moment to look around at the other people who had come to do the same.
We don’t celebrate this day in our country, but we should. It was interesting to see the different people arrive and leave with their little brooms and pots of water and flowers. The more agile members of the family stepping up on to the stones to access the tombs while the older members looked on, leaning against a neighboring site. And to look across the graveyard, colorful with all its new decorations, and no one looking morose, but thankfully loving. A community honoring its past.