Of Weird Graveside Sanitizations


That death has morphed into a big industry is not in contention. Funeral homes, crematoriums, carpenters, funeral hire services, to name but a few, are the major beneficiaries. Traditional African setting had a way of dispensing with the dead, and, unlike today, big and elaborate funerals were unheard of. In some customs, the dead were simply tossed in the bushes for the scavengers to do postmortems and inter the remains in their bellies. Not today where the dead are mourned in such a fashion as to leave the bereaved surprised.

  Where there is a dead body, vultures will gather. This saying, straight from the Bible, is aptly true when applied to human vultures. Any news of a dead person will bring even those who never knew the deceased to the bereaved home. Real and pseudo mourners will camp there, until the final journey of the deceased into the six feet resting pit.

But before then, once the news of anyone kicking the bucket filters in, speculation are always rife from the ‘know-it-all’ sources as to the real cause of the death. Even where a natural cause is the case, and before the coroner’s postmortem results, weird theories are floated out there which sometimes leaves the hearer in shock.

  The speeches given during the final journey are interesting to listen to. As has become the norm, no one can speak ill of the dead, lest he or she be castigated, or on belief it can invite the inevitable to the living. Where such superstitious belief originated from is neither here nor there. What stands out is the laudatory speech after speech that places the departed amongst the saintliest of saints.

  “The deceased has left a void we who are still alive will find hard to fill,” are the oft quoted words during funerals. Taken in their context, it would mean a crook that was gunned down in the ‘line of duty’ was a commendable example the living mortals should try to emulate, and fill the void, or surpass the exploits of same.

  “I recall how we used to hunt with the deceased, how the morning of our initiation we went to the river and had a numbing swim before facing the circumciser’s knife, and how he stoically endured the pain without flinching. He was a man in every sense of the word, unlike today’s generation of pampered kids who undergoes the rite of passage in comfort of hospitals,” a grey-haired man, in praising his departed friend, can be heard solemnly saying.

  Forget the written but flowery brief life story of the departed, itself a masterpiece of literary genius to convince the skeptics, and seemly written by a hired ‘tribute master’, and listen to the grandiose speeches, for here is where the gist lies. From the village elder, the local administrator (chief), the area grassroots leader (ward representative), the area legislator, and the officiating pastor, all falls over themselves frothing on their mouths ends in outdoing each with laudatory words!

  “We’ve lost a shining example noted as the hardworking and who was on the forefront championing for the welfare of others,” the chief can be heard saying, praising a known distiller of bootleg liquor, or a dealer of illegal drugs, and from whom he was getting good cash to turn a blind eye or in return of tipoff in case of an impending police raid.

  “That was one vote gone too soon,” the politicians, with fashionable lamenting voices, can be heard saying, including promising to stand with the bereaved family, as in educating the minors a deceased left behind.

  The pastor doesn’t care if the dead fellowshipped in his church. He has been paid for the occasion. And he is the speaker of the moment, preaching like his life depends on it. Actually, not preaching, but canonizing the dead in words fit to make saints in heaven weep.

  “As it may seem painful that we’re here to give one of ours a decent sendoff, we should instead be celebrating. We’re confident he has crossed over to the bright peaceful shore, and is at this moment dancing with the angels waiting for that banquet when the final trump sounds and the time will be no more,” the pastor eloquently says, contorting his face for the dramatic effect as he delivers his well packaged sanitizing drivel, while mopping his face with a napkin sized handkerchief.

  You’ll be forgiven to mistake you’re in a revival meeting, judging by the many ‘amen’ that rents the air, when he could be well officiating the funeral of a known pedophile who met his end from an irate mob.

  Regardless of how the deceased lived, it is worth noting a dead body has a magical effect on the living, and especially on the immediate family members. The dead unites the feuding parties together, for that last respect. And it is a united front that is projected during a photo op, though a grim face can be seen in the lineup.

  “From dust thou cometh and to dust thou returneth,” the pastor quips, when the casket is lowered to the final resting place, and faces, from known to unknown, scramble for the shoves to be seen amongst the bereaved in interring the remains of the departed.

  And as a last adieu, the mourners direct their feet to the tent where free food is served, and healthily belches out of the compound with satiated tummies.

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