Death. It sits and waits for us to fall into its grasp. It lingers and hovers over our lives, knowing we will eventually succumb to it. I thought this, as I watched my grandmother’s casket being lowered to the ground. I was unsettled, haunted by the eerie silence that followed. Where does she disappear to? But, perhaps, death isn’t as malevolent as that. After all, everything has its time and purpose on earth, everything has an expiration date – including my grandmother. Funerals help us grasp that reality. They are the bridge towards closure, a vital ceremony to help our brains process the loss of a loved one. I learned this at my grandmother’s funeral recently, when I came to marvel, laugh and appreciate all the things that make a funeral. Here are a few:
It is especially important at black funerals, where you have to cater for the many that turn up to pay their last respects. There will be those who see it as a day for free food, and that’s okay.
They are the embodiment of ubuntu. In my Zulu culture, they gather at the family’s home for the duration of the funeral, sleeping over to comfort the family. But I wanted to tell those who kept telling us to not cry, to let us be. Crying is an important process in mourning.
The bossy aunt
I have a loud-voiced aunt who comes to family gatherings at the last minute and tries to take over. When we ran out of food, she saw a gap and pounced. She started monitoring how much food was going into people’s plates, dishing out just a quarter of a spoon of beetroot. Did I mention she is a mathematician?
Then comes the part when people get to share reveries about the deceased. My grandmother was a multi-faceted woman, so no two stories were the same. When her best friend got her chance to speak she went off on a tangent, which turned awkward, until someone interrupted with a hymn.
The pastor delivered a flawless speech. But it sounded a bit too rehearsed, which made me wonder: With the number of funerals that take place every weekend, how many has he been to? Does he have a speech prepared for each or does he just recycle them? I suppose it is just a job after all, and just like death, it’s part of life.