M. Bos est mort la semaine dernière.
He was a wonderful gentleman of the Cantal in the Auvergne and was 94 last April. We have been coming to our little French farmhouse in the Lot for nine years. M. Bos was the father of Paulette, the first person we met when we came to look at the house over 10 years ago now. Paulette’s father lived with her and her husband, Georges, in the farmhouse right next to ours.
Every day M. Bos would walk past our gate and we would try to pass the time of day with him. His accent was a strong dialect that was difficult for fluent French speakers to decipher and next to impossible for us with our feeble and shameful ability with the language. Nevertheless, over the years we were able to speak about the weather, about his health, and about wild mushrooms.
When we first knew him he still worked every day in the vegetable gardens and from time to time would bring us Quercy melons (the best in the world!) still warm from the sun! Every year he arrived with a plastic shopping bag full of various wild mushrooms and wonderful cepes – last years cepes were amazing. On our day of arrival this year he came with freshly picked girolles, which were cooked that evening and were absolutely delicious.
It may have been our second summer here, so M. Bos would have been around 89 – my husband was working on the roof positioning the TV antenna. We didn’t really have a long enough ladder and I asked M. Bos if they had one we could borrow. He trudged along back to a barn and before I knew it was walking back, cane in one hand and wooden ladder over the other shoulder!
The family very kindly invited us to attend the funeral and also to view the body, which was laid out in his bedroom. We declined, due to our own sensibilities, but were very touched that they shared their sorrow with us. The arrangements for the funeral and burial were deeply a family affair. M. Georges Estival is a fine cabinet maker and I wonder if he made the coffin himself... The men in the family drove a van with the coffin inside and we were invited to join the family procession to the church in Maurs, not quite an hour away. Family carried him into and out of the church and to his final resting place.
The day of the funeral was glorious – not a cloud in the skies. As I sat in the old church it occurred to me that M. Bos might have been married in that church and perhaps his daughter was as well. It seemed a place of family traditions, but somehow, it was in a sense not religious. A mass was said and people seemed to know all the words – but out of 100 people only two received the sacrament. The priest spoke clearly – we could understand much of the French. (I learned later he was probably from Belgium!!!)
The cemetery is in a beautiful, hilly place overlooking the hills of the Auvergne – one could easily imagine Les Chansons de l’auvergne echoing their haunting melodies. We joined the other mourners and sprinkled sand over the flag-draped coffin and the dear sweet man was laid to rest. Is it not reassuring in this divided world to know that genuine endearment can happen despite language and cultural barriers; that when hearts are in the right place loving friendships can be fostered and sustained; and that when I think on the dear friend, all losses are restored and sorrows end. (Shakespeare Sonnets)