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carving reality at the joints

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A Grisly Practice

I was looking through a photograph exhibit, An Argentine slum through children's eyes, and I came upon this photograph:

Eugenio was forced to exhume the remains of his mother two years after her death because he couldn't pay rent on her grave - rent which, in Argentina, becomes payable on the grave a certain number of years after death.

He undertook the grisly task of digging up her bones and washing them before placing them in a common grave, and documented the whole event in pictures. Cemeteries do provide both services in Argentina, but at a price.
Exhuming the dead is done in Greece too, mostly in the cities, not because of poverty but because there's a shortage of space in the cemeteries. After a person is buried for three years, the bones are dug up, washed, and placed in the "osteofylakio", a common area where the bones of the dead are stored. The family and a priest attend the exhumation.

I was present at the exhumation of a person very dear to me. It was a shocking and traumatic experience that I've never forgotten and I can't bear to imagine what Eugenio was going through having to do this himself. I pray and hope that my father will never have to be exhumed, he's buried next to my grandmother in our family grave, in an old, tiny cemetery overlooking the Ionian sea.

Posted by zorkmidden on Jul 22, 2005 10:00 am

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