They say there is a season and a time for everything under the sun and it seems that of late this seems to be the season of death. In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself in many death related situations-being notified of a death, at a funeral service, at a burial fundraiser-all serious matters to do with death. While I do not wish to diminish the grief that comes with death, I must say in my view, funerals have become the latest avenue for displaying the worst of human behaviour.
One thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is the constant requests for tales and reports of the actual death. Nearly everyone wants a narration of how the actual death happened as if that will change anything. So, on top of dealing with the actual death, most grieving families must deal with the endless questions on the blow by blow details of the demise of the departed.
It becomes an endless recital where each arrival of another mourner calls for another narration -which frankly not only tiring it is also infuriating. So, unless you can bring the departed back to life, please do not ask for a synopsis of the death process- it is just heartless and unnecessary.
There used to be a time when people liked to believe only villagers make fusses about funerals-but based on recent events I can tell you city dwellers have become worse. There seems to be an unspoken understanding that funerals must now be about showing off and whoever shows off the most gets the requisite society beanie points. In the past there was a lot of hue and cry about the selected morgue since whichever cooler one chooses to freeze their dead makes all the dead.
Practical considerations such as traffic jams, proximity to the village plus increase in morgues have taken away the morgue floss power. This has then meant that the obituary is the weapon of mass flossing power- everything from the page size, to the selected image and to the array of relatives mentioned in the obituary.
If you want to display that you have arrived, then to make sure that your obits have the right wording (celebrating a life well lived is becoming a bit tired) and have the right relatives (those with titles and good jobs but better still diaspora). It is also important to eliminate all potential untidiness like double obituaries from rival families, funny quotes in the obituaries (bible verses are a better choice than sayings such as “whenever he saw a dead man’s mouth he saw the folly of not eating what one had in one’s lifetime.”)
The funeral booklet has become the latest and most vicious weapon of funeral floss power. People like to have a booklet that reeks of money and status- so there is an ever-ending contest to fill it with as many exotic pictures as possible with a generous sprinkling of lyrical sounding tributes. Selection of photos for inclusion has become more lethal than writing the tribute.
The booklet is expected to only feature the good side of the deceased- so pictures of too much exuberance around alcohol and dance must be expunged especially if one hopes to paint the deceased as God fearing citizen. There usually is a heated contest about whose mushy tribute makes it to the booklet and even better still makes it to the day of the funeral. I have seen families nearly come to blows become they want to only have certain tributes that ooze poetic sadness couched in elaborate vocabulary or those posh sounding accents.
Come Funeral Day, and it is all systems go- somewhere amidst the grief and tears families and mourners still have time and energy to make show off statements. Some go into extreme pains to ensure that their funeral garb (complete with fascinators and those super dark glasses) find their way to the front of the church. Some spend hours rehearsing how they shall read their tribute especially how they plan to collapse in dramatic tearful fashion. I really do not understand why those family members who are prone to fainting and making spectacles of themselves still insist on reading out their tributes – what is possibly so wrong about sitting things out?
Of course, you have the usual staples of contests in making tributes and speeches. You have the usual family members who cause drama and wreak havoc because they want to have prime spots to give tributes (most of which are embellishments that obscure reality)politicians who want their moment in spotlight( lest they miss out on the opportunity to make political mileage) and of course the clergy( who like to use their status to hog the mike).
A last addition to all this new funeral fad has been the eating craze, where most grieving families have adopted the habit of throwing lavish banquets in the name of feeding the mourners.
Gone are the days where all that was on offer was a measly meal to provide minimum sustenance to the attendees. In its place, you now have Michelin Star catering complete with bottled water emblazoned with face of the departed. The sad thing is that all this furore is lost on the guest of honour- the departed in the casket. Maybe death just gives another forum to pursue our selfish interests- even at the cost of breaking all rules of decency.