Why Do People Go To Funerals?
I have often wondered why people cry at funerals, an art perfected in many rural parts of Kenya. They cry wail and go into near comatose and seldom justifiably. This crowd puts up a moping scene having little or no acquaintance to the deceased. On top of that, the person is normally buried days after their death is made public, allowing ample time for those who wish to shade a tear or two to do so. Why then do people cry at funerals?’
In my native home Kitale, whenever there is a funeral it would be the major talk of town. Eager teenagers would look forward to the evenings when they would sneak out of their parents’ house to dance away for most parts of the night as other mourners kept vigil amid the blaring sound of music, mostly dirges. The vigil would be proper, complete with a bonfire to warm those who normally curl themselves up in the open, the Neanderthal way to scare away wild animals as they mostly slept the night.
From personal experience, most of these mourners are usually there for the perks that come with attending ‘funeral functions.’ The major perk being food, is free and is served three times a day for the entire mourning period which could last a week. Some are known to bring their entire families to funerals every so often, even in far flung areas to ‘mourn.’
The older generation consider it a taboo not to attend a funeral in the vicinity of their homes, regardless of whether they actually knew the deceased or not. Others are usually oblivious of the grieving family and care less about those genuinely mourning. In fact, owing to the high number of jobless people and the farming community here who are normally occupied seasonally, majority of those who show up at funerals are usually curious elements who crave for action and activity whenever it happens.
It baffles though that there is now a new breed of mourners who are actually hired by politicians to make noise for them whenever they address funerals. These henchmen make sure they drown the “boos” that may come from the crowd whenever their supremo visits certain areas where they expect to encounter hostility.
The family of George Aladwa, the Nairobi mayor was thrown into shock and disbelief when the crowd at the burial of his father turned hostile after two groups clashed over their support of ODM and UDF parties. The funeral was held at Sabatia, the backyard of presidential hopeful Musalia Mudavadi. Prime Minister Raila Odinga also attended the funeral but he and Musalia never sat together during the ceremony since they arrived and left conveniently at different times.
In an instant, a funeral was transformed into a political rally where bitter exchanges were made coupled with a singing contest where the volume of the voices mattered more than the sweetness of the rhythm.
In the past, we have also been treated to a spectacle where the grieving family is involved in a contest of who bears the responsibility of taking charge of burial arrangements. Some have fought over the properties of the deceased even before their bodies reached the morgue.
Then there is this instance when fate played a cruel trick on residents of a village in Mount Elgon. A man, who was presumed dead, accorded the necessary burial rights and properly mourned resurfaced nine months after his supposed burial, in flesh and blood. Villagers and family were stunned as would be expected since they should have thought it only possible for the dead to start walking in Bible fables. Seeing the ‘dead man’ walking must have been a big disappointment to some still since most people normally contend with quickly forgetting the departed and making new acquaintance with the property left behind. Otherwise, the heroic return should have been accorded the necessary jubilation and fanfare as would have been expected for something conversely different from a funeral.