A candle for Drahomira

Photo: CTK

Each year, on All Soul's Day, Czechs flock the cemeteries lighting candles and leaving flowers on the graves of their loved ones. This year I set out to the cemetery...

Photo: CTK
I have her hands and particular mannerisms. When my mother, father and I emigrated to Canada, I was 2 and she 73. My grandmother visited us twice. I have vague memories of her or perhaps they are not even memories but images that accompany the stories I have heard. As a child, I envied other children for having grandparents. I too wanted a warm, kind grandmother to take me on trips and buy me gifts. Occasionally, I wrote her letters on an old typewriter, my fingers getting jammed between the keys. She sent Czech magazines for children. I remember the day she died. It is one of the few times I have seen my father cry. Two years later, the communist regime collapsed. Today is Dusicky, - All Souls Day - a day to remember the dead. My father and I went to light candles on her grave. It's the first time I have done this. I am attracted to these Czech traditions, they give me a sense of continuity and history that I have never felt before. Nostalgia for something I never knew. A nostalgia that is more and more fleeting the longer I live in the Czech Republic.

We arrived at the cemetery at dusk, with plenty of time to stroll between the graves. Small, red lanterns tucked between flowers shone their warm lights as a reminder of those who had once been. I felt peaceful and it was beautiful.

It is strange to not know the woman who raised my father. Her spirit has been passed down to me in ways I perhaps do not even suspect. I wonder what she would think of me, of my life. Would she be proud? Would she turn in her grave?

As we drove away from the cemetery, I thought of the ocean and mountains on the West Coast of Canada. Of the people I love there. Of how different my "world" is from the "world" my grandmother lived in. And somehow, it is no longer as disjointed as it once seemed. And next year, wherever I might be, I will light the candles again...