We boarded the family hired kombi and I sat next to my friend.
‘So, you are ready to deliver the word?’ I nudged my friend and smiled.
An untypical frown creased Bonani’s forehead, ‘What word?’
It was my turn to frown. ‘The one you will deliver at Mama’s memorial service.’
‘Me? I thought I was coming as a friend and son, not a pastor.’
‘You are coming as a three in one,’ I said.
He shook his head. ‘But I’ve not prepared to give the word. Sorry, you will have to find someone else.’
‘Where do I get that someone at such short notice?’ I cried. ‘Christians at my rural home believe a memorial service is a pagan rite. There is no one else to do it. Anyway, I notice you are carrying the Bible. Surely you must have prepared something?’
‘I carry my Bible everywhere I go,’ he stressed. Perhaps I imagined it but I detected a criticism of those who didn’t always carry their Bibles.
‘You can repeat the sermon you delivered at that headmaster’s memorial service,’ I suggested.
‘Which one was that?’
‘At Lady Stanely Cemetary.’
The pastor chuckled. ‘That was more than ten years ago. I can’t remember what I said.’
‘I can’t recall the verses you quoted but I remember the sermon.’ I summarised the sermon. The things we have to do for these forgetful pastors!
He sighed. ‘I’ll see what to do.’
We were now driving past Grey Prison. Seconds later we were on the Highway. For most of us, the two-hour drive to my rural home in Lower Gwelo was a pleasant one. We joked and sang hymns of the various denominations we belong. The singing was spiced with secular songs Mama used to love. My friend made notes and occasionally referred to his smartphone.
What a memorable word he delivered! He regaled the gathering with anecdotes from his many discussions with Mama and cited several verses showing that a memorial service was Biblical.
‘Hebrews 11,’ Bonani rounded up, ‘is the Bible’s Heroes Acre. In this chapter, we celebrate the departed but are still with us in spirit. I’ve no doubt, Mama now belongs to the same Whatsapp group with the Heroes paraded in this chapter. I’ll miss her. ‘You are a good pastor,’ she used to say to me. ‘What a pity you are in the wrong denomination!’’
The locals loved the word. They were intrigued by the argument that a memorial service was Biblical. They re-read the verses he quoted and shook their heads. ‘Indeed,’ they concluded, ‘a memorial service is Biblical.’
I wish I could say my relatives were also impressed by the sermon. They were furious.
‘Why didn’t you tell us that your friend was a pastor?’ They demanded as we boarded the kombi.
‘I didn’t think that was important,’ I said. ‘I thought…’
‘Not important!’ They shouted. ‘An unannounced pastor in our midst! Think of all those crude jokes we told on the way. The songs we sang! Mama would never have sung our improvised lyrics but we thought we could have a bit of fun.’
‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘My friend didn’t mind. He’s an understanding pastor.’
‘No pastor can ever be understanding! When we get to the gates of heaven Jesus will ask all pastors who have known us to help Him make the final selection. The imposter friend of yours will look at us and say: ‘not this one, she may have ironed her manyano uniform well but Good Lord, the jokes she told! Not this one either, he downed a few hot ones on the way to a memorial service. Not this one, he…’
We sang laid back hymns all the way to Bulawayo.