KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 3: Spring 2015
Memoir: 486 words

Lela’s Bones

by Angie Athanassiades

Three years after my grandmother Lela died, her bones had to be disinterred according to the customs of the Greek Orthodox Church. Keeping her in the ground would have meant paying the church an amount of money none of us could afford and so, after many a fraught conversation, it was agreed by the family that Lela would be disinterred, her bones placed in a wooden box and shelved alongside those of countless others.

My family is not religious and our cultural background is diverse. And yet, when it came to Lela’s bones, the tension was tangible. We all tried to act as though it didn’t really matter, that she was gone; the Lela we had all known and loved in our own, different ways, had no connection to these bones, the hard, dry remnants of the body she had once inhabited. Such was the extent of our denial that none of us even attended the process, but left Lela’s bones to be disinterred, wiped clean, and placed in a box with only strangers present.

For years the guilt grew inside me, for years I imagined the process in ever growing detail, was haunted by images, my mind filled at times with questions that none could answer. And then, a few months ago, more than ten years after Lela had died, I realized that my disassociation, my distancing from the whole process, had led to the ultimate betrayal.

I was on a quiet beach on a Greek island with two friends, two women I have come to care for deeply. We were lying in the sun, taking in the warmth and kindness of a Greek summer afternoon, when we saw the severed leg of a goat nearby. What struck me most at the time was that it still had the tether rope around its hock and my mind filled with images of how I imagined the animal had died. The rope spoke of captivity, of a violent death stripped of dignity. Something about the way it had just been thrown, the disrespect of it all, filled me with a deep sadness. I got up, walked quietly towards it, took it in my hands and gently removed the rope, smoothing the hair where the tether had left its cruel mark. I then walked towards the sea, over rocks, through water, and, saying a few words of prayer, dropped it into the clear sea. It sank, ever so slowly, to the seabed and came to rest in the soft, accommodating sand. And then stillness, silence, a kind of peace.

If only I had found the strength and kindness to be that person ten years ago. If only I had realized that bones are the last tangible thing that remains, the last remnant we the bereaved are given through which we can express our love, the tenderness we will forever feel for those no longer with us.

Angie Athanassiades
Issue 3, Spring 2015

hails from Greece, England, and Egypt. She attended Greek school and has a BA in English Literature & Politics (University of York) and an MA in Life Writing (University of East Anglia). Her essays appear in KYSO Flash and Serving House Journal, and one of her essays was favorably reviewed by TLS: The Times Literary Supplement. She writes creative nonfiction about people, nature, and time, how its passage affects perception and the material and notional nature of things. She is currently writing essays on belonging and displacement and on women from ancient Greek mythology and drama.

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