Attending burials in an African setting has shown me how far pretence can stretch. You think you have seen it all until you find a crowd of mourners tucked somewhere under an isolated guava tree next to a pit latrine scrutinising the deceased’s casket and counting the number of minutes people spent in washrooms. Some of these people travel from far only to come and lose their focus next to the grave. You wonder if that’s the kind of ‘last respect’ they came all the way to give.
When you see them check into the homestead of the deceased, you would be forgiven for thinking they shared a duodenum. They act so heartbroken that they barely have strength to answer back to simple greetings. You walk to someone and stretch your arm to greet them and they look at you with droopy eyes like a rabbit rescued from jaws of a cheetah then frown and nod their heads and say “Mmmmm” then wiggle their feet towards the grave.
Since when did ‘mmmm’ become a response to a greeting? Before you know it, like amoeba, such people shall have regrouped and formed one big group. Then they start pointing at passers-by using their lips. They will start with the immediate family members of the deceased and start planning their lives for them. These type of mourners are known for tagging strangers along to funerals; strangers who ask questions left right and centre, you would think they are carrying out a well-funded research.
Then comes the time when the deceased is being eulogised, I have never really understood why people fight for the chance to get hold of the microphone and say something. Some stubborn relatives even grab the microphone just to say, “I have nothing to say” then sit down! For Pete’s sake, if you have nothing to say, don’t say it! Others will ask for an opportunity to say something then start wailing over the microphone. If only they knew what how excruciating that sound is to our eardrums amid the sorrow we carry in our weak hearts in such times.
Most of these people who create unnecessary drama at funerals are people who turned the other way when the deceased was alive. People who barely interacted with the deceased and had cut ties with them now want the whole world to know how far they had walked with the late.
They will be at the front of the queue, ordering cold drinks as though they had checked in that morning with electricity, a refrigerator and a waitress. Woe unto you if you happen to be the one serving them food. They will hold your hand and pull you closer to their faces then whisper, “My daughter, I know we are all mourning and busy, but could you kindly find me a sweater, I am freezing. My legs are also swollen, find me some sandals.”
So now, apart from feeding them, you are now tasked with running around looking for a sweater and sandals for people seated under a guava tree sipping drinks as they continue talking about the bereaved family. They have the eyes of a hawk, try sitting down before you get them what they asked for and you will hear their sharp and shrill voices from a far, “Myyyyyyyy daughter. I am still waiting, mama.”
As the body is lowered into the grave, they will wail. When I say wail, I mean wail to the extent that the crowd thinks another person has just died at the funeral. Then as others leave the site, they will sit behind to engage the masons cementing the grave. You will hear them asking how much the cement cost and how much they were being paid for the services.
I personally cannot stand such people during burials. They must have escaped my wrath during my mother’s burial as I was young but saw the Goliath in me during my father’s burial. I came out guns blazing! To date, they see me, they run!
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