Lucija (or about death) / Lucija (ili o smrti)

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Speech I was unable to give at your funeral, for which, I was unable to attend

My dear grandma, Lucija,

First, I need to ask for forgiveness from you for not showing up on the day of your funeral. I hope you’ll accept this as my way of saying goodbye. Let me try to summarize your life story. You were born as Lucija Jukić, one of fourteen children of my great grandmother Mame (nine children stayed alive, five of them died). Like many women in Bosnia in the first half of 20th century, you finished just four years of elementary school, enough to learn how to write, read and count. You married my grandfather, Marko Mihaljevich, with whom you gifted with life and raised three children. You definitely were a hard worker; a housewife who was holding up at least three corners of the house. You cooked and cleaned, had a big garden, few animals and you were proud of the beautiful flowers in front of the family house. If my memory doesn’t cheat me, you were the happiest when friends and neighbors would stop by and together you would drink one of three regular coffees a day, as Bosnians usually do.

If there was no war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you would probably have had a calm life like a slow wide river. When the war started, you and my grandfather, Marko, didn’t want to leave your home – rather to die inside your house doors then to become a refugee, you would say. You experienced months of being bombed in surrounded city, and when fights started happening in the streets of Bugojno, you didn’t want to run through the woods to reach the free territory. You stayed, you were imprisoned for days in some basement and after that you were watching your only son being held and tortured in the war camp in the middle of the city. Luckily, everyone of your closest family somehow survived the war horrors. A few years after the war, you lost one of your daughters in a car accident on the other side of the world and then my grandfather, Marko, quietly followed her footsteps. Two losses, two deaths, in just a few months.

Your personal agony started twelve years ago. You got sick and year after year you were depending more and more on other people’s help. You were leaving this world slowly and in pain. If I would meet your God, the one that you respected so much and praised every Sunday, I would ask him: ‘Why do you let good people, why do you let your people suffer, being punished without being guilty? And why can’t those people decide on their own if they want to live or if they want to die?’

I need to apologize to you once again, this time for using your death to promote the idea which you, as a Catholic, would completely reject. But, I truly believe that life should be a choice and not an obligation. Not every life is worth living. When there is no hope in recovery, and pain is all that is left, what is the purpose of staying alive? How can anyone dare to force someone else to live? We should be the masters of our lives, to live it while we can and leave it when we want.

I was taking pictures of you in your last two years of life, in the nursing home, always on the same bed in the corner of the room. I would take at least one picture of you, always thinking that that one might be the last one. The last time I saw you, you were almost completely blind and deaf, you were repeating that you just wanted to go home to your Marko. We cried together. I felt hopeless and I felt angry for not being able to help you, for not being able to bring you merciful death.

Finally, after all those years of waiting and praying, death found you one spring Sunday. I hope your soul found desired peace.

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Govor koji nisam održala na tvojoj sahrani na koju nisam došla

Draga moja baba Lucija,

ponajprije, moram te zamoliti da mi oprostiš što nisam uspjela doći na tvoju sahranu. Nadam se da ćeš ovo prihvatiti kao neki moj oproštaj od tebe. Pokušat ću ukratko ispričati tvoju životnu priču. Rodila si se kao Lucija Jukić, jedno od 14 djece moje prabake Mame, od kojih je 9 preživjelo, a 5 umrlo. Poput mnogih bosanskih žena u prvoj polovici 20. stoljeća završila si samo četiri razreda osnovne škole, dovoljno da naučiš čitati, pisati i računati. Udala si se za moga dedu Marka Mihaljevića, s kojim si dobila i odgojila 3 djece. Uvijek si bila velika radnica, kućanica koja je držala barem tri kuta kuće. Kuhala si i čistila, brinula se za veliki vrt, nekoliko životinja i bila si ponosna na prekrasno cvijeće ispred obiteljske kuće. Ako me sjećanje ne vara, najsretnija si bila kada bi ti prijatelji i susjedi navratili pa bi zajedno pili jednu od triju kava što se piju u jednom danu, kako to Bosanci obično čine.

Da nije bilo rata u Bosni i Hercegovini, ti bi vjerojatno imala život miran poput polagane široke rijeke. Kada je rat počeo, ti i dedo Marko niste željeli ostaviti svoj dom – radije umrijeti na kućnom pragu, nego postati izbjeglica, govorili ste. Doživjeli ste mjesece granatiranja grada u okruženju, a kada su se sukobi krenuli događati na ulicama Bugojna, niste željeli bježati kroz šumu prema slobodnom teritoriju. Ostali ste, danima bili zatvoreni u nekakvom podrumu, a nakon toga si morala gledati sina jedinca zarobljenog i mučenog u ratnom logoru usred grada. Srećom, svi iz tvoje uže obitelji nekako su preživjeli ratne strahote. No nekoliko godina nakon rata, najprije si izgubila jednu od svojih kćeri u automobilskoj nesreći na drugom kraju svijeta, a nakon toga je dedo Marko tiho krenuo njezinim stopama. Dva gubitka, dvije smrti u samo nekoliko mjeseci.

Tvoja osobna agonija započela je prije dvanaest godina. Razbolila si se i godinu za godinom postajala si sve više ovisna o pomoći drugih ljudi. Napuštala si ovaj svijet sporo i u boli. Ako bih srela tvoga Boga, onoga kojega si toliko poštovala i kojeg si slavila svake nedjelje, upitala bih ga: Zašto dopuštaš da dobri ljudi, zašto dopuštaš da tvoji ljudi pate, bivaju kažnjeni, a da nisu krivi? I zašto ti ljudi ne mogu samostalno odlučiti žele li živjeti ili umrijeti?

Moram ti se ispričati još jednom, ovaj put za korištenje tvoje smrti kako bih se borila za ideju koju bi ti, kao katolkinja, u potpunosti odbacila. No ja iskreno vjerujem da bi život trebao biti izbor, a ne obaveza. Nije svaki život vrijedan življenja. Kada nema nade u oporavak i kada je bol sve što je ostalo, koji je onda smisao ostajanja na životu? Kako se itko usudi prisiliti nekoga drugoga na življenje? Trebali bismo biti gospodari vlastitih života, živjeti dok možemo i otići kada želimo.

Fotografirala sama te posljednje dvije godine života, u staračkom domu, uvijek na istom krevetu u kutu sobe. Kada bih te posjetila, snimila bih barem jednu fotografiju, misleći pritom da bi baš ta mogla biti posljednja. Posljednji put kad sam te vidjela, bila si gotovo potpuno slijepa i gluha i samo si ponavljala da želiš ići kući svome Marku. Plakale smo zajedno. Osjećala sam se bespomoćno i bila sam ljuta jer ti ne mogu pomoći, jer ti ne mogu donijeti milostivu smrt.

Napokon, nakon godina čekanja i moljenja, smrt te je pronašla jedne proljetne nedjelje. Sad se samo nadam da ti je duša pronašla žuđeni svoj mir.

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