Yesteday evening we witnessed a funeral cortege whilst out walking. My options for a ramble here are limited – it’s either snake infested dam walls or sandy paths that circumnavigate the local cemetary.
The coffin, which was huge, more of a hefty square than loosely corpse outlining polygon, was draped in a vivid red and gold blanket and held aloft by four men who were jogging towards the graveyard. Why are they running, I wondered? Perhaps the coffin’s heavy, suggested Mum. Perhaps they are worried the rain is coming? Perhaps, I mused, it’s just the end of the day and they’re tired and hungry?
The pall bearers were tailed by sporadically straggling groups of people, mourners you might imagine, some dragging children, one or two with goats and the occasional attendee on a bicycle. Most looked remarkably cheerful given they were presumably, though not certainly, grieving their dead: some were likely just interested passers-by who fancied the opportunity for a little social intercourse on the way home.
Citizens of the poverty stricken Third World are more pragmatic about death than we are. Probably because they have to be I explained to Amelia, ”because they face so much illness and disease” I said solemnly.
”Duh, Mum, Illness and disease are the same thing”.
Ah yes. So they are.
And as a consequence funerals are both regular and well attended occasions. It’s rare to see mourners arrive on foot (except in a place like the Outpost), frequently they follow a make-shift hearse (usually a pickup truck festooned with flowers) in long cavalcades of slowly moving vehicles bedecked with vibrant bougainvillea, their hazard lights blinking and horns blaring in a noisy semblance of untidy union, all full of women weeping, ululating or catching up on the latest gossip.
I hope my funeral’s that well attended I say to Amelia.
She tells me that in some societies, in the old days (which because she’s 14 could mean as recently as the 1980’s) people would leave money in their will in order to pay people to attend lest mourners were a little thin on the ground.
I hope she’s not suggesting I do the same?