It was a typical African funeral in every way. I can vividly remember all the people who sat around inside and outside the compound of my grandfather’s village home. My grandfather had unfortunately been hit by on coming bus while waiting at a bus stop. He had sustained fatal injuries and died in hospital a few days later.
There is always a strong sense of sadness at a funeral but when you are a child, it is slightly fascinating to observe all the activity taking place. Firstly, a group of self-appointed aides would emerge. Then it seemed that a sequence of events would develop into a specified order.
The wailing relatives would arrive and throw themselves onto the floor and roll onto the ground as they expressed their grief. The helpers would immediately swing into action, approach them to support their head or undo the child tied onto the back of the women and take their bags to a safe place.The assistants would console them whilst helping them to get up and walk them to their seats. They would sit down, inquire after everyone’s health by way of clapping. Offer their condolence and then delve into asking how the deceased had passed on, this would often take a very long time and sometimes would include discussing the deceased last words or wishes. Often a plate of food would be offered, as they would have travelled a long way.
Suddenly the strange man arrived, and when he did everyone stopped to look. Although there was a lot of loud lamentations and wailing going on at the funeral, it certainly was not coming from the men. African men didn’t cry loudly unless of course they were drunk. This individual, did not appear drunk but boy he knew how to scream! He was so loud, completely grief stricken, his face was so wet there were tears, snot and saliva, it was ghastly! He was chanting so loudly and weeping, as expected he threw himself on the ground outside the house and spectacularly rolled around on the ground. None of us could make out what he was saying but we all agreed on assuming that he was granddad’s close ally.
The weird thing about this man was that no one knew him, which is unusual as African families are usually close knit and would be familiar with every family member. Everyone was convinced after watching him that he was a close acquaintance to my deceased grandfather, his performance was impressive it was on a completely different level.
The helpers quickly moved into action they unstrapped his bags helped him up and awarded him a place near the dignitaries of the family, he had earned his place there. We all felt like saluting him, as he walked over to his allocated place.
When he sat down, everyone was puzzled he didn’t seem to be saying much, he could have been starving, he appeared very unkempt. He was offered food, gobbled it up and consumed a drink soon after. After that he asked for a tooth pick.
Whilst he was picking his teeth he decided to start talking, he asked about who had died at this specific funeral? We were all bewildered by this question but closely we observed him as we couldn’t wait to find out who he was. We carried on listening. He went onto to ask how my grandfather had died, at which point it was explained to him, that he had been hit by a bus while he stood at the bus stop.
Unbelievably he responded by laughing sarcastically and scornfully querying why my grandfather had not seen the bus coming? I held my breath!
Everyone was incensed and in shock, not only was he a disrespectful stranger, but he had done the unthinkable! He dared to speak ill of the deceased! Swiftly the atmosphere changed, and became thick with tension. You could almost cut the air with a knife! We sensed it, he did too. Before things got ugly, he quickly picked his bags up and made a run for it, headed onto the next funeral.